Risk of patient harm in hospitals spikes on the weekends

Patient admissions to hospitals may be higher doing the week but preventable complications — such as infections and falls — are more common in hospitals on weekends, according to a study published in The BMJ.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 351 million patients discharged from U.S. hospitals between 2002 and 2010 and found just 19 percent were admitted on a weekend.

Despite there being fewer admissions on the weekends, hospital-acquired conditions occurred at a frequency of 5.7 percent during the weekend, compared to 3.7 percent during the week. Falls were the most common complication, comprising more than 12.6 million of the 14.3 million reported conditions within the dataset.

The study has some limits, the authors admitted, such as its reliance on insurance billing codes, which may underestimate the number of some conditions and overestimate the incidence of others.

"It is premature to conclude that factors intrinsic to the hospital on weekends like reduced staffing or the increased number of covering providers are primarily responsible for the greater number of hospital-acquired conditions among weekend admissions," wrote Kumar Dharmarajan, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., in an accompanying editorial. "It is not clear that the weekend is a less safe time for patients."



More articles on patient harm and safety:
Health surveys underestimate number, cost of poisonings in US
Zero injuries from patient falls: One hospital demonstrates how it's possible
Do healthcare workers report safety issues after fixing the problem?


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