You are more likely to die if you are admitted to the hospital on the weekend: Medical malpractice claims in Canada

by John McKiggan

The January issue of Men’s Health Magazine has published an article about the so-called “Weekend Effect”. It is a well-known phenomenon that has been studied for years that has established that patients are more likely to die in hospitals on the weekend compared to during the week.

A recent study in the journal of the American College of Cardiology studied 470 hospitals and determined that more than half of the patients experienced cardiac arrest on the weekend or at night.

Unfortunately, this is a well-known systemic problem and I wrote about it back in 2014: What is the safest time to be admitted to hospital? Weekend admissions carry higher risk of death. In that article I referenced a Canadian Institute for Health Information study that was conducted over three years that found a 4% increased risk of death on weekends compared to weekdays.

So far, none of the studies are able to pinpoint exactly why there is an increase in mortality over the weekends. They are just able to document a measurable increase in mortality for patients admitted over the weekend. Most speculate that it may be connected with reduced staffing on weekends.  Until there is systemic change in the way hospitals staff during weekends, patients will continue to be at increased risk.

So what can you do to protect yourself (or your loved ones) if they are admitted to the hospital on the weekend?

Ask questions: Get the names of everyone who treats you. Ask the doctors what condition or illness they think you have (this is called their operating diagnosis).  Then ask them what their “differential diagnosis” is. A Differential Diagnosis is a required step in the diagnostic process where the physician has to consider all the possible things that could be causing the patients signs or symptoms (not just the probable causes).

What else could it be? Ask your doctor if there are any other reasonable causes for the signs and symptoms you are being treated for.

Make a list: When you see a doctor for the first time, do your best to provide the doctor with a complete medical history including any past medical problems, any medications that you are taking, any allergies and any past medical conditions or surgeries.

Ask questions: This one bears repeating because it is so important. Most medical misdiagnosis occur because of lack of communication. So asking questions can help you understand what information your health care providers have and what information they may be missing. For example, many diagnostic errors happen when lab are done but the doctor fails to read the test results when they are completed. If you are in the hospital ask your nurse or doctor what tests they have ordered, when they expect the results to come back and then ask again what the results of the tests were.

Get a consultation from Dr. Google:  After your doctor tells you their treating diagnosis, research the condition online so you know what signs and symptoms to look for.

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