BACKGROUND: There is wide variation in mortality among patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Whether this is related to patient or hospital factors is unknown.
OBJECTIVE: To compare the risk of mortality for patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and to determine whether the majority of that variation was explained by differences in patient characteristics across sites.
DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: An international multicenter cohort study of hospitalized adults with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 enrolled from 10 hospitals in Ontario, Canada and 8 hospitals in Copenhagen, Denmark between January 1, 2020 and November 11, 2020.
MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Inpatient mortality. We used a multivariable multilevel regression model to compare the in-hospital mortality risk across hospitals and quantify the variation attributable to patient-level factors.
RESULTS: There were 1364 adults hospitalized with COVID-19 in Ontario (n = 1149) and in Denmark (n = 215). In Ontario, the absolute risk of in-hospital mortality ranged from 12.0% to 39.8% across hospitals. Ninety-eight percent of the variation in mortality in Ontario was explained by differences in the characteristics of the patients. In Denmark, the absolute risk of inpatients ranged from 13.8% to 20.6%. One hundred percent of the variation in mortality in Denmark was explained by differences in the characteristics of the inpatients.
CONCLUSION: There was wide variation in inpatient COVID-19 mortality across hospitals, which was largely explained by patient-level factors, such as age and severity of presenting illness. However, hospital-level factors that could have affected care, including resource availability and capacity, were not taken into account. These findings highlight potential limitations in comparing crude mortality rates across hospitals for the purposes of reporting on the quality of care.