Healthcare News & Insights

How hospitals can improve patient care on the weekends

Increasingly, quality of care is being tied to hospital reimbursement. So hospitals must examine their performance in certain areas to ensure they stay viable, including the outcomes of patients after discharge. But patient care isn’t created equal each day of the week. Patients are at a clear disadvantage if they’re admitted during weekends.

179139278A recent article in Forbes by Dr. Robert Pearl, CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, shows many hospitals are lagging behind when it comes to the care they give patients over the weekend.

The article states that patients admitted on Friday nights and throughout the weekend have worse outcomes than those hospitalized on any other day of the week. They’re more likely to die from cardiac arrest and stroke, according to two separate studies. And based on the results of one British study, even after leaving the hospital, they have a higher chance of dying within one month.

Keys to better weekend care

Statistics like these don’t paint the best picture if a hospital’s part of an accountable care organization, or if it’s trying to prove it’s meeting various quality measures implemented by insurance carriers.

Here are just a few steps hospitals can take to improve outcomes for its weekend patients, adapted from the Forbes article:

  1. Shore up the staff. It’s a well-known fact that there are usually fewer doctors and nurses at hospitals most weekends, which means patients don’t get as much attention as they would on other days. Usually, more doctors are available during weekdays, as more patients are scheduled for outpatient tests and procedures that require their presence. Retooling the schedule so that more doctors are on-site during the weekends would lead to better care.
  2. Extend hours for clinical services. Besides lacking staff for weekend shifts, many interventional and diagnostic services aren’t available for patients on weekends, except in cases where the patient’s already critically ill. The thinking goes that patients who are already stable can wait a few days if their condition doesn’t appear life-threatening. However, the problem with that is that the patient can still experience a slow, undetected decline. If these services were readily available on weekends, hospitals would be better equipped to notice changes in patients’ conditions, and could provide proper treatment before their health gets worse.
  3. Improve patient follow-ups. Gaps in handoff conversations during shift changes cause issues in caring for patients. This phenomenon only gets worse on the weekends. Often, physicians come in later than they would during the week, and they won’t review patients’ test results until the next morning. So any staff members who care for patients during the night are left in the dark about any changes to their conditions or necessary interventions. Encouraging doctors to come in earlier and ensuring they inform patients and nurses of test results before they leave for the day would lead to an improved continuum of care.

Hospitals may experience pushback from staffers if they try to implement these changes. Getting buy-in for this idea is as simple as reminding everyone of one fact: Providing quality, consistent care to patients seven days a week is going to become essential for survival in the changing healthcare landscape. Hospitals that work on making these improvements now will be the ones that come out ahead in the end.

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