Problem: Hospitals’ weekend care much lower quality than weekdays

by Anne Zieger on October 4, 2010

Patient monitor used in hospitalsIn theory, hospitals are 24-hour businesses. And in practice, they are, by most measures. The thing is, patients who get care over the weekend simply don’t get the same results as those who are admitted during the week.  The truth is, there seems to be a substantial weekend care gap, with outcomes falling far lower on the quality spectrum than they do during the week.

Take this stat, quoted in a New York Times piece on the subject.  According to one study from 2007, for every 1,000 heart attack patients admitted to hospital on a weekend, there were 9 to 10 more deaths than for patients admitted on a weekday.

In another example of how much weekend care varies from weekday care, a recent AHRQ study found that only 36 percent of major procedures for weekend-admitted patients took place on the actual day of admission, while 65 percent of major procedures for weekday-admitted patients took place on the day of admission, according to industry journal FierceHealthcare. And if that doesn’t bother you, consider that the percentage of patients admitted on a weekend who died (2.4 percent) was higher than that of patients admitted on a weekday (1.8 percent) — at least according to the agency.

People, I’m s ure all of us agree that hospitals aren’t deliberately slacking off on purpose over the weekend. And I know that getting equal results at a time when it’s hard to get staffers of all kinds — not to mention consults — is a major obstacle.  But this is just unacceptable. When are we going to take this issue on?

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