ambulance at night

When I doing my internal medicine residency, I knew it was best not to be admitted to a teaching hospital in June and July. That’s when freshly minted MDs start their internship and learn how to “practice” medicine.

 

The weekend effect

Now, a new study published in the journal, Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, finds that it is better not to have a stroke on the weekend. It turns out people admitted to the hospital with a stroke on a Saturday or Sunday have a higher mortality rate than those who get admitted on a weekday.

The American Heart Association issued the following statement about the study:

“After adjusting for age, gender and other medical complications, researchers found that patients admitted on the weekend had a 14 percent higher risk of dying within seven days of admission compared to patients admitted during the week.”

According to a CNN report on the study, the “weekend effect” has been identified before in other conditions such as cancer and pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs). The weekend effect was greater for people admitted to rural hospitals compared with urban hospitals.

 

In a 24-7 world, why does this exist?

The study was done in Canada, but there is no reason to believe that things are any better here in the U.S. Why is it that I can get the same quality help seven days a week in many other areas of my life, say tech support for my computer problems or online banking issues, but I can’t count on getting the same quality of hospital-related healthcare if I happen to get sick on a weekend? Shouldn’t we have systems in place to ensure that we can get quality care no matter what day of the week we get sick?

There is an important caveat to this report. It is that you should not, not, not delay seeking care for stroke symptoms just because it is the weekend. When it comes to stroke, time to treatment makes all the difference in terms of preserving brain function. So, if you think you are having a stroke or other serious medical problem, head to the ER. Meanwhile, us “wonkie” types need to work on making healthcare safe and effective 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.