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Medical Reasons for 'Weekend Effect' Elusive

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, August 20, 2012

The AHRQ study did not draw any conclusions from the data about the quality of care provided on weekends versus weekdays in the nation's hospitals because the results were not adjusted for severity of illness. "This report does raise the issue that there could be a 'weekend' effect, but that further study is needed," lead author P. Hannah Davis said at the time. "We can't conclude that there is a weekend effect."

Robert O'Connor, MD, chair of emergency medicine at the University of Virginia and a board member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, told HealthLeaders Media "it's hard to say" whether the weekend effect is real.

"Do I think it exists? It has been reported in a number of disease states from data registries and we need to find out if this is real or not," he says.

"A lot of these studies are retrospective looking at databases that weren't designed to collect data prospectively. While I am very concerned about what they might be showing, I'd be very worried that if there is a difference it is something we would need to identify and correct as a healthcare system."

While lower staffing levels on the weekends might be an obvious hindrance for many medical services, O'Connor says many emergency departments maintain consistent staffing levels throughout the week. He says the findings in the Johns Hopkins study might be more dependent upon how the data was measured.

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