You may remember a previous post on the weekend effect but if not, you can refresh your memory here. The weekend effect pertains to your chances of survival (or dying) if admitted to a hospital over the weekend. Not worried about that? According to countless studies and this article in Forbes, you should be.
Robert Glatter MD, the author of the Forbes story succinctly explains this phenomenon, which is multifactorial:
“At least some of the previous explanations from researchers for the “weekend effect” are related to lower staffing levels (nurses), fewer available specialists, as well as lack of readily available imaging and so-called interventional-type services offered during a typical “work” day from 9-5.”
Well now, in this article from the Annals of Surgery, researchers have found five ways to minimize the weekend effect and here they are:
Increased nurse-to-bed ratios. Successful hospitals had a median nurse-to-bed ratio of 1.3, versus 1.1 among those with persistent weekend effects.
Home health programs. Those with home health programs — in which skilled caregivers checked on patients after discharge, provided wound care and administered medications — were 2.37 times more likely to succeed.
Full adoption of electronic medical records. 40% of successful hospitals had fully implemented EMRs, versus 12.2% of those with persistent weekend effects.
Inpatient physical rehabilitation programs. Hospitals with such programs were 1.03 times more likely to succeed.
Pain management programs. 70% of successful hospitals had pain management programs, versus 49% of those that had persistent weekend effects.
While the study did show these differences, the differences seem very small and while they may be statistically significant, do they really make a difference in real life? For example, 1.3 nurses per patient is technically greater than 1.1 nurse per patient but it doesn’t take a statistician to realize that’s a very small difference.
And what about the stat that shows hospitals with inpatient rehab programs are three-hundredths times more likely to result in a lower mortality rate. While I’d be thrilled to know that these are true advantages, we won’t know until larger studies are performed, which are in fact in the works. Stay tuned!