Alternate explanation for 'weekend effect' emerges

Weekend hospital admissions from medical emergencies include older and more "functionally dependent" patients than weekday admissions, which could explain why weekend admission increases the chance of dying within 30 days, according to a new study published in the Emergency Medicine Journal.

Researchers, led by Paul K. Hamilton, M.D., of Royal Victoria Hospital, analyzed data from more than 500 emergency patients admitted to a hospital in Belfast, Ireland, in November 2012. The patients were no sicker than patients admitted during the week, but were significantly older and more disabled, according to the study.

"Additonally, the lack of difference in physiological and laboratory markers of illness acuity presented here questions the plausibility of the inference that increased senior medical presence at the weekend would improve outcomes," wrote Hamilton.

Patients undergoing surgery on weekends also have higher death rates, but researchers say that improving nurse staffing ratios could counter the weekend effect. Other factors reducing those death rates are integrated home healthcare programs, fully electronic medical record systems, inpatient physical rehabilitation programs and pain-management programs, FierceHealthcare previously reported. The phenomenon persists in nations, including the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, although in the latter case te risk largely dissipates after the first seven days.

To learn more:
- here's the study