In three out of four countries, there was an increased risk of dying within 30 days on hospital admission on the weekends: it was 8 percent higher in England, 13 percent higher in the U.S., and 20 percent higher in six Dutch hospitals.
This new international level study – conducted at the School of Public Health at Imperial College London – has revealed that people checking into the hospital over the weekend are more likely to die within 30 days compared to those who visited during the week. Nicknamed “the weekend effect”, this is not the first study to analyze this frightening phenomena. However, it is the first to examine the effect on a global scale, and covering a much larger number of admissions.
3 million admissions between 2009 and 2012 from 28 metropolitan teaching hospitals in England, Australia, the U.S., and The Netherlands were evaluated according to the report published in BMJ Quality & Safety.
On the other hand, Dutch hospitals suffer from ‘Friday effect’ with the risk of death 33 percent higher if a patient was admitted on a Friday than on a Monday. Freaky Friday, huh?
Researchers were unable to conclude or pinpoint one major cause for the effect, but speculated various factors which could lead to such a scary scenario:
“We were unable to look at staffing or access to services within the hospital,” said study coauthor Paul Aylin, a professor of epidemiology and public health in the School of Public Health at Imperial College London. “Our own work around stroke care in the UK suggests that patients admitted at the weekends are less likely to get a same day brain scan, less likely to get clot-busting treatment and have worse outcomes across a range of indicators.”
The study showed the risk of death for planned surgery is very low — a fraction of a percent, so patients shouldn’t worry too much. But Aylin says, “if I were a patient, I would be interested to know my hospital’s policy on staffing levels and senior consultant cover over the weekend,” he said.
Clearly, if you have an emergency, you need to check into the hospital right away whether it’s a weekend or not, said NBC News Medical Contributor Dr. Natalie Azar.
Azar agrees staffing levels may play a role.
“If you come in with a cardiac arrhythmia, pulmonary embolism, something life threatening that requires an intervention, the hospital might just not be staffed as well as it is during the week,” she told Today.
Weekends may not be the only problem, although studies about a possible “July effect” are mixed.