AHRQ: Weekend/weekday admissions produce variable results
Patients admitted to the hospital during the weekend hours are more likely to experience delays in major procedures, be emergency and critical cases and have a higher mortality rate compared to patients admitted during weekday hours, according to a statistical brief conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

In 2007, there were 39.5 million community hospital stays -- 19 percent of those began on a Saturday or Sunday. Of patients admitted to the hospital, mortality rates were found to be higher during the weekend hours compared to those on the weekdays: 2.4 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively.

According to these data, more patients admitted on the weekend are critical cases and require immediate care in the emergency room compared to those admitted during the weekday: 65 percent versus 44 percent.

On the weekends, patients are three-times more likely to be admitted due to an emergency such as a heart attack, stomach bleeding and internal injuries compared with those on the weekday: 28 percent and 11 percent, respectively.

Additionally, 64 percent of heart attack patients admitted on the weekend who required a major cardiac procedure—PCI, CABG, coronary thrombolysis and heart function analysis—received that procedure compared with 76 percent of patients who were admitted on a weekday. Data also showed that a smaller cohort of patients admitted for angina received immediate treatment on the weekends (23 percent) compared with those admitted during the weekday presenting with the same condition (37 percent).

Patients who were admitted on the weekend received delays in care compared to those admitted on a weekday. Of those who required a major procedure, 36 percent underwent that procedure on the weekend versus 65 percent of patients who underwent a required major procedure during the weekdays.

“This delay may be related to the scheduled nature of weekday procedures, but may also be an indicator of quality of care,” the brief stated.

Cardiac conditions -- congestive heart failure, chest pain, heart attack and cardiac dysrhythmias -- accounted for four of the top ten reasons that patients required care, accounting for 227,000, 191,000, 161,000 and 142,000 weekend discharges, respectively.

PCI was among the most frequent reason for emergency weekend admittance.

Data were drawn from the 2007 Healthcare Cost & Utilization Project Nationwide Inpatient Sample of hospital inpatient stays from community hospitals.