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“The weekend effect”

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Trying to address hospitals’ perilous ‘weekend effect’


Chuck Lauer, a former Modern Healthcare publisher, writes about how to combat “weekend effect” in hospitals.

“Simply put, there are fewer physicians and nurses {on weekends} to treat patients, and fewer technicians to operate life-saving equipment on the weekend. However, people don’t have fewer medical problems on the weekend. They still have heart attacks, accidents and other emergencies, and there are plenty of patients admitted for elective procedures over the weekend.

“So it doesn’t surprise me that there’s a markedly higher death rate for patients admitted on the weekend ….”

“In an industry like healthcare, where you are dealing with life and death issues, is it permissible to reduce the availability of services and use second-string staffing for two days of every week?”

“Examining policies at 117 Florida hospitals and their outcomes for 126,666 patients, researchers concluded that by boosting specific services, hospitals could lower the rate of complications on the weekend.

“These strategies involved raising the nurse-to-bed ratio, fully adopting EHRs and improving inpatient physical rehabilitation, home health and pain management.

“Interestingly, simply hiring more staff — increasing the nurse-to-bed ratio — was not the most effective of these strategies. While hospitals that raised the nurse-to-bed ratio were 1.44 times more likely to overcome the weekend effect, the likelihood rose to 2.37 times for hospitals that had home health programs and 4.74 times for hospitals that fully adopted EHR.”


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