News Release

U of M researchers find cohorting patient care model during pandemic improved patient outcomes

Dedicated care for COVID-19 patients improved in-hospital survival rates, reduced complications and ensured rapid implementation of new care processes

Peer-Reviewed Publication

University of Minnesota Medical School

Published in JAMA Open, University of Minnesota Medical School researchers found that, during the extenuating circumstances of an emerging pandemic, grouping patients together in one area or facility was successful in providing high-quality care and containing infectious patients.

Called cohorting, this patient care model was implemented by M Health Fairview early in the pandemic when little was known about how to effectively treat patients with COVID-19. 

“This study highlights the academic and clinical expertise of the M Health Fairview system to deliver outstanding medical care to the people of Minnesota,” said Dr. Greg Beilman, a critical care surgeon at the U of M Medical School and was a co-lead of the M Health Fairview COVID-19 response team. “In this study we demonstrated our ability to rapidly bring new developments in science to the patient’s bedside and improve outcomes for patients affected by this frequently dire disease.”  

Because every person being treated in the cohorts had COVID-19, frontline healthcare workers quickly became well-versed in COVID-19 care. These experienced specialists worked side by side with academic physicians who were translating the latest medical research into new solutions they could apply in real time to patient care. COVID-19 patients had access to leading-edge clinical trials, internal COVID-19 testing capabilities, and innovative technology.

The study found that dedicated COVID-19 units in Minnesota were associated with a 2% overall improvement in in-hospital survival rates when patients were properly matched for severity of illness. Complications associated with COVID-19 were significantly better in this group as was the rapid implementation of new care processes by health care providers. 

“The opportunity to care for patients at our COVID-19 cohort hospitals was a shining light in a dark time for many of us,” said Dr. Andrew Olson, medical intensivist at the U of M Medical School and medical director of COVID hospital medicine at M Health Fairview. “We watched our colleagues develop expertise, conduct research and care for one another while staying healthy in a challenging time.” 

The research team hopes the cohorting method could be implemented when there are outbreaks of infectious diseases, like viral pneumonia. This is due to the fact that the framework helps provide infectious patients the best care during times of rapid learning in scientific research.

“As the pandemic progressed, we had broad availability of personal protective equipment, vaccinations, and more health care workers developed familiarity with treatment of COVID-19,” said Dr. Beilman. “These developments combined with the fact that the incidence of COVID decreased last year — this care model was no longer necessary.” 

Researchers plan to further study which patients benefit most from care at such facilities, as well as evaluate the experience for those healthcare professionals who work in them. 

This research was funded by U of M Medical School, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, and the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. Additional support for MN-LHS scholars is offered by the U of M Office of Academic Clinical Affairs and the School of Public Health.


About the University of Minnesota Medical School
The University of Minnesota Medical School is at the forefront of learning and discovery, transforming medical care and educating the next generation of physicians. Our graduates and faculty produce high-impact biomedical research and advance the practice of medicine. We acknowledge that the U of M Medical School, both the Twin Cities campus and Duluth campus, is located on traditional, ancestral and contemporary lands of the Dakota and the Ojibwe, and scores of other Indigenous people, and we affirm our commitment to tribal communities and their sovereignty as we seek to improve and strengthen our relations with tribal nations. For more information about the U of M Medical School, please visit

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