Several factors, ranging from the time of year to the day of the week, can affect how well a patient does in the hospital. In this installment, we look at weekends and a phenomenon dubbed “the weekend effect.”

What Is the Weekend Effect? 

Published studies have found that people checking into the hospital over the weekend are more likely to die within 30 days compared to those who are admitted on other days. The phenomenon has been dubbed “the weekend effect.” 

A recent study, for example, looked at data for nearly 3 million admissions over several years in 28 metropolitan teaching hospitals in the United States, England, Australia, and The Netherlands. According to the study: 

  • The risk of dying within 30 days was higher for weekend emergency admissions in three of the four countries: 13% higher in the United States, 8% higher in England, and 20% higher in The Netherlands. 
  • In Australia, the risk of dying within seven days of admission was significantly higher if the patient was admitted on a weekend.  
  • The risk of dying in The Netherlands was 33% greater if the patient was admitted on Friday, as compared to Monday.  

Although the exact reasons for the weekend effect have not been studied, experts believe that the underlying cause is understaffing, leading to delays in diagnosis and treatment.  

In our experience, a disproportionate percentage of medical malpractice claims arise from failures to diagnose, manage, or treat patients on weekends. Patients “fall through the cracks.”   

What To Do? 

If immediate or urgent medical care is needed, patients should not avoid or delay visiting a hospital despite the weekend effect. The answer is not to avoid hospitals but to pay attention and actively participate in the process to the extent possible. If the treatment or procedure is elective, a patient should consider a hospital stay that avoids weekends. As is always the case, patients should seek and be guided by the sound advice of qualified medical professionals.  

If you find yourself hospitalized on a weekend, it is recommended that you have a family member or friend with you to take notes, ask questions, and help communicate with doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators.  

The Bell Law Firm represents clients who have suffered death or catastrophic injury in medical malpractice and other personal injury cases.