There have been several studies published in recent years that shine light on aspects of health care that are considered increasingly unsafe. In particular, there is concern about the level of care performed by medical providers on the weekend compared to on a weekday.
A study published in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery concluded that pediatric surgical patients who underwent common urgent operations during the weekend faced a higher risk of mortality, blood transfusion, and surgical complications. Another Johns Hopkins Medicine study revealed the same type of “weekend effect” for head trauma victims. Its review of more than 38,000 patient records reflected a higher mortality rate in older adult patients who sustain head trauma injuries over a weekend than those hospitalized on a weekday.
These findings have been previously documented in cases of heart attack and stroke, but now have been linked to head trauma care as well. Researchers surmise that there is not a medical explanation for these statistics, but rather a hospital operational insufficiency due to reduced staffing and lack of accessibility to specialists during the weekend.
The danger associated with weekend health care is not the only concern of researchers. A separate study from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that as many as 40,500 critically ill patients may die each year in the United States because doctors failed to diagnose hidden life-threatening conditions.
Lead author of the study, Dr. Bradford Winters, commented that the research reflects errors of omission with the three most common missed diagnoses being heart attack, pneumonia, and pulmonary embolism. Nearly 30 percent of patients had a missed diagnosis at the time of death and misdiagnosis in intensive care unit patients was as much as 50 percent more common than in patients in the general hospital.
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