Weekend Patients in Hospitals Wait for Major Procedures

Of the 8 million patients who were admitted to U.S. hospitals on weekends in 2007, approximately one third needed major procedures on the day of admission, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. In comparison, patients who were admitted on weekdays received 65% of all major procedures on their first day in the hospital.

For example, patients who were admitted on weekends were nearly three times more likely to be there due to emergencies, such as heart attack, stomach bleeding, fractures or internal injuries than patients hospitalized on a weekday (28% versus 11%). In addition, 65% of patients admitted on a weekend were initially seen in hospital emergency departments, compared with 44% of weekday-admitted patients.

The federal agency’s analysis also found that:

  • Nearly seven of every 10 patients hospitalized on a weekend were admitted through the emergency department, compared with roughly four in 10 patients admitted during a weekday;
  • Sixty-four percent of heart attack patients admitted on a weekend had a major cardiac procedure, such as angioplasty or heart bypass surgery, performed by the second day of their hospitalization, compared with 76% of heart attack patients admitted on a weekday. A smaller share of weekend than weekday admissions received treatment on the day of admission for back surgery (35% versus 90%); angina (37% versus 23%); gallbladder removal (23% versus 32%); and hernia repair (54% versus 68%);
  • Weekday admissions were often planned in advance. For example, 99% of admissions for osteoarthritis and 93% of those for back problems occurred on weekdays; and
  • About 2.4% of patients admitted on a weekend died in the hospital, compared with 1.8% of patients admitted on a weekday.

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