Weekend Surgeries: 5 Ways to Improve Patient Outcomes

A recent study published in the journal Annals of Surgery examined what hospitals can do to improve the outcomes of weekend surgeries. Statistically, patients who undergo weekend surgeries tend to experience longer hospital stays, higher readmissions and increased mortality rates. For the purposes of the study, the weekend effect was defined as “having longer length of stays on the weekend than during the week.”

The study, conducted by researchers at Loyola University Medical Center and Loyola University Chicago, identified five factors to improve outcomes in patients undergoing three types of urgent procedures that could not be delayed until a weekday: appendectomies, hernia repairs and gallbladder removals.

1. Increased Nurse-to-Bed Ratio
Hospitals that overcame the weekend effect had a median nurse-to-bed ratio of 1.3, compared to a ratio of 1.1 at hospitals experiencing the weekend effect.

2. Full Adoption of Electronic Medical Records
Those hospitals with fully adopted EMRs were 4.74 times more likely to have improved patient outcomes.

3. Inpatient Physical Rehabilitation
This helps identify which patients need extra physical conditioning before they are released and who will require resources once discharged.

4. Home Health Program
With this program, patients receive visits from home healthcare workers after they are discharged. This ensures patients understand and receive their medications and get any extra care they need. Hospitals that provided this service were 2.37 times more likely to beat the weekend effect.

5. Pain Management Program
Seventy percent of hospitals with pain management programs no longer experienced the weekend effect. The study found that hospitals with the program were about 1.5 times more likely to overcome the poorer outcomes.

Although there are no definite explanations for why this “weekend effect” occurs, several reasons have been proposed, including reduced staffing and resources, as well as fewer experienced doctors and nurses available on weekends.

By implementing these strategies, hospitals can reduce the incidents of adverse outcomes for patients needing to have procedures done on weekends.

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