Is the Weekend Effect a Real Phenomenon in Hospitals? October 20, 2023.

A concerned mom looking at her daughter who is in a wheelchair at the hospital.

Does the day of the week that a patient is admitted to the hospital affect the risk of complications or death? Shockingly, researchers discovered that patients admitted to the hospital on certain days have a higher risk of death or complications.

What Is the Weekend Effect in Hospitals?

The “weekend effect” refers to the increased risk of complications or death for patients admitted to hospitals over the weekend. According to the Patient Safety Network, studies have shown that patients admitted to the hospital late on Friday to Sunday are more likely to have complications. In a 2017 study, researchers concluded that the chance of death or complications was 19% higher on the weekend compared to during regular hours. It has been argued that the increase in mortality in hospitals over the weekend is due to sicker patients admitted on those days. A 14-year study conducted at the Helsinki University Hospital opposed this argument. The researchers discovered that “Surgery, internal medicine, neurology, and gynecology and obstetrics were most sensitive to the weekend effect.”

Weekend Effect Near the Holidays

The weekend effect can also be seen near the holidays, deeming it the “Christmas effect”. Studies have shown that people who are admitted to the hospital near a holiday have a higher risk of complications or death. Many hospitals become understaffed near the holidays, due to a lot of the staff going on vacation or taking time off to spend time with their families. According to the British Medical Journal, “Patients discharged during the week before or the week after Christmas Day were at higher risk of death or readmission within seven days”. If a loved one is admitted to the hospital during a major holiday, pay close attention to what is or isn't being done.

Causes of the Weekend Effect

There are several speculations to what causes the weekend effect, these include:

  • Understaffed hospital
  • Inexperienced doctors working weekends
  • Delayed/ limited access to diagnostic tests
  • The patient has a more severe condition but waited until the weekend to get checked out
  • Misdiagnosis
  • The staff is not familiar with the patient's medical history

These factors could all lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit against the healthcare professional or hospital. A lawsuit would be able to be filed if negligence or intentional malpractice could be proved.

What Should I Do if a Loved One Is Admitted to the Hospital Over the Weekend?

If you or someone you know needs urgent medical care, do not avoid going to the hospital if it is the weekend. Instead, pay closer attention to what is going on. Don’t be afraid to ask the staff and doctors questions if you are unsure about what is going on. If you do have to be admitted to the hospital over the weekend it is recommended that a trusted friend or family member keeps you company so they can take notes and communicate with the healthcare professionals.

We have dealt with many cases where the weekend effect led to negative outcomes and complications. If you or a loved one has experienced negligence due to the weekend effect contact The Mellino Law Firm at (440) 333-3800 or fill out our contact form.