Higher patient death rate linked to higher hospital occupancy

If patient-flow efficiency isn't a priority at your hospital, here's one more reason why it should be: Patients are nearly 6 percent more likely to die when they're admitted to hospitals that are at or near their peak capacity. Patient safety risk increases even higher during weekend admissions and during the height of flu season, according to a University of Michigan Health System study.

The study, published in the March issue of Medical Care, looked at 167,000 patients 65-years and older who were admitted to hospitals across Michigan between 2003 to 2006. All patients were admitted via the emergency room with one of six diagnoses: acute myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, stroke, pneumonia, hip fracture or gastrointestinal bleeding.

"These kinds of study findings should prompt hospitals to look at the flow of patients and processes of their care teams during high occupancy times. Those are more challenging moments when more things can go wrong," said co-author Dr. Matthew Davis, co-director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program at Michigan.

Not surprisingly, patients fared better when more nurses were on duty. But patient risk increased by nearly 8 percent during weekend admissions, and increased even more -- by nearly 12 percent -- when admission occured during peak flu season.

To learn more:
- read this press release
- here's an abstract of the study