Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Hospitalisations for emergency-sensitive conditions in Germany during the COVID-19 pandemic: insights from the German-wide Helios hospital network
  1. Andreas Bollmann1,
  2. Sven Hohenstein1,
  3. Vincent Pellissier1,
  4. Sebastian König1,
  5. Laura Ueberham1,
  6. Gerhard Hindricks1,
  7. Andreas Meier-Hellmann2,
  8. Ralf Kuhlen3
  9. on behalf of Helios hospitals, Germany
  1. 1 Heart Center Leipzig at University of Leipzig and Leipzig Heart Institute, Leipzig, Germany
  2. 2 Helios Hospitals, Berlin, Germany
  3. 3 Helios Health, Berlin, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Professor Andreas Bollmann, Heart Center Leipzig at University of Leipzig and Leipzig Heart Institute, Leipzig 04289, Germany; andreas.bollmann{at}


Background While there are numerous reports that describe emergency care during the early COVID-19 pandemic, there is scarcity of data for later stages. This study analyses hospitalisation rates for 37 emergency-sensitive conditions in the largest German-wide hospital network during different pandemic phases.

Methods Using claims data of 80 hospitals, consecutive cases between 1 January and 17 November 2020 were analysed and compared with a corresponding period in 2019. Incidence rate ratios (IRRs) comparing the two periods were calculated using Poisson regression to model the number of hospitalisations per day.

Results There was a reduction in hospitalisations between 12 March and 13 June 2020 (coinciding with the first pandemic wave) with 32 807 hospitalisations (349.0/day) as opposed to 39 379 (419.0/day) in 2019 (IRR 0.83, 95% CI 0.82 to 0.85, p<0.01). During the following period (14 June–17 November 2020, including the start of second wave), hospitalisations were reduced from 63 799 (406.4/day) in 2019 to 59 910 (381.6/day) in 2020, but this reduction was not as pronounced (IRR 0.94, 95% CI 0.93 to 0.95, p<0.01). During the first wave hospitalisations for acute myocardial infarction, aortic aneurysm/dissection, pneumonitis, paralytic ileus/intestinal obstruction and pulmonary embolism declined but subsequently increased compared with the corresponding periods in 2019. In contrast, hospitalisations for sepsis, pneumonia, obstructive pulmonary disease and intracranial injuries were reduced during the entire observation period.

Conclusions There was an overall reduction of absolute hospitalisations for emergency-sensitive conditions in Germany during the first 10 months of the COVID-19 pandemic with heterogeneous effects on different disease categories. The increase in hospitalisations for acute myocardial infarction, aortic aneurysm/dissection and pulmonary embolism requires attention and further studies.

  • COVID-19
  • emergency care systems
  • hospitalisations

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

This article is made freely available for use in accordance with BMJ’s website terms and conditions for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic or until otherwise determined by BMJ. You may use, download and print the article for any lawful, non-commercial purpose (including text and data mining) provided that all copyright notices and trade marks are retained.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

View Full Text


  • Handling editor Katie Walker

  • Twitter @ABollmannMD

  • Contributors The authors confirm contribution to the paper as follows: study conception and design—AB and RK; data collection—AM-H and RK; data analysis—SH and VP; draft manuscript preparation—AB. All authors reviewed the results, made critical revisions and approved the final version of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.