Hospital-acquired conditions more likely for patients admitted on weekends

A new study that found patients are more likely to experience hospital-acquired conditions during the weekend raises important questions about what causes HACs and highlights how much work the industry must do to cut down on these adverse events, according to an accompanying opinion piece.

In the study, recently published in BMJ, researchers led by Frank J. Attenello, M.D., director of the department of neurosurgery at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine, analyzed data from 351 million patients discharged from U.S. hospitals between 2002 and 2010. Of the 19 percent of patients who were admitted to the hospital on the weekend, researchers found these patients were 20 percent more likely to experience one or more HAC than those admitted during the work week, after adjusting for patient and hospital cofactors.

Unsurprisingly, HACs also were associated with an 83 percent likelihood of a patient incurring increased expenses and a 38 percent likelihood of experiencing a prolonged length of stay, according to the study.

Despite the study's findings about when HACs are most likely to occur, "it is premature to conclude that factors intrinsic to the hospital on weekends like reduced staffing or the increased number of covering providers are primarily responsible for the greater number of hospital-acquired conditions among weekend admissions," Kumar Dharmarajan, M.D., a researcher at Yale University School of Medicine, told Reuters.

Indeed, it could be that patients who are admitted to the hospital on the weekend are in more urgent need of care, thus more susceptible to complications like HACs, another researcher, who was not involved in the study, told the news agency. Thus, "hospitals should focus on the reduction of hospital-acquired conditions more generally, not just on weekends," Dharmarajan wrote in an opinion piece also published in the BMJ.

Many healthcare organizations are doing just that as the industry continues its shift from a fee-for-service paradigm to a value-based care model focused on improving patient outcomes. But while President Barack Obama recently touted a 2014 report that estimated government programs such as the Partnership for Patients resulted in 50,000 fewer HAC-related patient deaths and $12 billion in savings, many large teaching and urban hospitals still have faced Medicare cuts because of their high rates of hospital-acquired infections, FierceHealthcare has reported.

To learn more:
- check out the study (registration required)
- here's the opinion piece (registration required)
- read the Reuters article