Saturday, March 6, 2010

Hospital Patient Safety Tip: Beware Weekend Medicine

Two years ago we wrote "Nine Tips To Keep You Safe When Dealing With Doctors And Hospitals." (available for free on our website). These patient safety tips are lessons we learned from our experience in litigating Ohio medical malpractice lawsuits. One frequent observation we noted from handling malpractice cases: having a surgery on a Friday often turned disaterous for the patient. It was our observation that "weekend medicine" sometimes (and certainly not always) meant a lack of attention to detail, delay in responding to the patient's symptoms, and delay in physician response to phone calls, pages, etc.
In fact, in our patient safety piece we wrote:

3. “Can We Reschedule This for a Tuesday?”

Avoid major surgery on Fridays if at all possible. We have seen a significant correlation between Friday surgeries and serious mistakes that occur over the weekend. Perhaps the physician is called on a Saturday evening and doesn’t want to come in, directing important medical decisions to others who aren’t as familiar with all the medical details. Staff may be reduced; the possibilities are endless. And we’re willing to bet that if you asked your physician or nurse friend about this issue, they might agree.

This may not come as a surprise as most people people don't like to work weekends, and medical professionals on call might be busy with personal "stuff."

But until recently, our observations from handling Ohio surgical error or hospital malpractice cases were unscientific and anecdotal at best. Lo and behold, a recent medical study concludes that weekend hopsital care is not as prompt as weekday care, and may be bad for your health.

This study essentially validates our unscientific observations about weekend medicine. What's the takeaway from all this for the public? If your loved one is in the hospital on a weekend, be more vigilant. Stay a little longer at bedside. Be more persistent with staff. And don't be afraid to speak up.

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