After a tough year, IU Health reports operating income up 148% in first quarter

In a dramatic turnaround, Indiana University Health said operating income more than doubled in the first three months of 2021, compared to a year ago, as the impact of the pandemic decreased.

The report seems to indicate that the worst of the COVID-19 crisis is over for the state’s largest hospital system, as surgeries and hospital admissions are climbing, and emergency visits are falling.

IU Health posted first-quarter operating income of $192.6 million, up 148% compared to last year. The health system announced results on Thursday. Revenue increased 14% to $1.85 billion in the quarter, as hospitals were able to schedule surgeries again for the full quarter, compared to last year, when it had to suspend non-urgent surgeries for several weeks.

Despite the encouraging result, IU Health officials said they did not expect smooth sailing for the rest of this year.

“We expect the rest of 2021 will require continued resilience to manage operations and finances while making new investments to serve patients who depend on us, especially in these critical times,” said Jenni Alvey, senior vice president and chief financial officer.

Indeed, expenses for the first quarter climbed by 7.4%, as the system paid out more for salaries, wages, supplies, drugs, equipment and other costs.

In a detailed, 49-page filing, IU Health warned that it did not know how much longer the pandemic conditions would last, and how they would affect the health system.

“Due to the evolving nature and unknown duration of COVID-19, the ultimate impact to Indiana University Health and its financial condition is presently unknown,” the system said. “COVID-19 could still negatively affect the operating margins and financial results of Indiana University Health as the duration of the pandemic is not known at this time.”

Still, key performance indicators climbed in many significant categories, including inpatient days (up 5.6%), surgeries (up 8.2%) and radiological exams (up 2.7%). The bed-occupancy rate edged up from 62% to 65%. Emergency room visits, on the other hand, fell 12%.

IU Health said that it continues to operate a virtual COVID-19 screening clinic, one of the state’s largest testing labs for coronavirus, along with vaccination clinics across the state, including mass vaccinations at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during April. It administered more than 455,000 vaccinations.

IU Health operates 15 hospitals statewide, and employs more than 3,000 doctors and 31,585 other employees.

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