Hospital Deaths Rise Markedly Once Occupancy Hits a Tipping Point

Death rates in hospitals are unaffected by how full the institutions are—but only up to a point, at which mortality rises rapidly as occupancy increases, says a team led by Ludwig Kuntz of the University of Cologne in Germany. In a study of more than 82,000 patients in German hospitals, the researchers identified the tipping point as 92.5% occupancy; among the patients who experienced those levels of crowding, occupancy accounted for 1 in 7 deaths. When surges in demand increase hospital occupancy beyond the tipping point, employees face limited resources and increased stress, which can lead to problems such as medication errors and delayed treatments.

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