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Study examines hospitals' 'weekend effect' and how to fight it

There is a dirty secret about many hospitals in the U.S.: if you get serious hurt or sick, it would be better if it happened on a Tuesday than a Saturday.

Something called the “weekend effect” seems to hamper the quality of care at hospitals around the world. A study released this summer by Loyola University Medical Center and Loyola University Chicago found that the chances that a patient admitted to the hospital over the weekend will die within 30 days goes up 13 percent in this country. In the Netherlands, the risk of death jumped 20 percent, according to Fierce Healthcare.

Evidence of a weekend effect is troubling. People cannot plan when to have a medical emergency, and we all deserve attentive, quality care in the ER, even if it is Saturday or Sunday.

Besides finding an apparent spike in substandard medical care on weekends, the Loyola study also examined 17 hospitals in Florida that do not experience a weekend effect. Researchers pinpointed five common factors that these facilities used to prevent a dip in quality of care after Friday:

1. Good staffing ratios. That is, making sure there are not too many beds per nurse on duty.

2. A home visit option to help with wound care and administration of medication at the patient’s house.

3. A fully electronic medical records system.

4. Inpatient physical rehab programs, to help determine which patients will need help once they go home.

5. Pain management programs.

Each of these tools seemed to ensure that the hospitals provided the same quality of care seven days a week.

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