Inpatients discharged from teaching hospitals on weekends experience similar postdischarge outcomes and shorter lengths of stay compared with patients discharged on weekdays, according to a recent Journal of Hospital Medicine study.
The study, led by Finlay McAlister, MSc, MD, LMCC, general internist and population health investigator at the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research in Canada, examined death or nonelective readmission rates for general medicine inpatients 30 days after weekend and weekday discharges at all seven teaching hospitals in Alberta.
Although fewer pharmacists, physicians, and therapists typically are available to assist patients discharged on weekends, Dr. McAlister and colleagues found that patients sent home on weekends do not bounce back to the hospital or the ED sooner than patients sent home on weekdays.
"If somebody is ready to go [home] on a weekend, you do not have to hold them until Monday, and nurse them and give them a false impression that that will improve their 30-day outcome," Dr. McAlister says.
In a previous study of patients with heart failure, Dr. McAlister noticed a trend that suggested better outcomes for patients discharged on weekdays. However, after studying a wider spectrum of patients with various diagnoses, he concluded there is no difference between weekend and weekday discharges in terms of patients' 30-day outcome.
Dr. McAlister suggests more research can be done to determine whether there is a difference in outcomes for weekend discharges from nonteaching hospitals.
"Because teaching hospitals may be a bit of a safety net, in terms of having house staff that is there seven days a week," he says. "The impact of reduced staffing levels may be more severe than at nonteaching hospitals."
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