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'Weekend Effect' Ups Death Rate in Hospitals

If you must go to a hospital, try not to be admitted on a weekend. A Canadian study found that patients admitted to hospitals for ischemic stroke on weekends had a higher risk of dying -- by 14 percent -- than those admitted during the week. Weekend patients were also less likely to be discharged to go home.

Death rates from the “weekend effect” rose even higher when patients went to a rural hospital instead of an urban one, and when the physician in charge was a general practitioner instead of a specialist.

Other studies have found that the “weekend effect” also negatively affects other conditions, such as cancer and pulmonary embolism. The differences found could be due to disparities in resources, expertise and health care providers working during the weekend, the researchers suggested.

Clearly your best bet is to try and avoid hospitals by making healthy lifestyle choices ahead of time, but if you must get some conventional health care, timing, it seems, may make a difference. To get the best care, it may be wise to:

  • Avoid being admitted to a hospital on a weekend
  • Try not to get a prescription filled at the beginning of the month (when drug errors are at their highest)
  • Choose a highly rated hospital (patients have a 69 percent lower risk of dying at five-star hospitals than they do at one-star hospitals)

Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association March 8, 2007

Science Daily March 8, 2007