Is There a Bad Time to go to the Hospital?

According to two new studies, there may be certain times when being admitted to a hospital is more dangerous for patients. A study in the journal Medical Care found that each hospital has a unique set of factors, a “fingerprint”, which in combination compromise patient safety. Researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor found that four factors can affect a patient’s risk of dying in the hospital- high hospital occupancy, weekend admissions, nursing staffing level, and seasonal flu. These factors not only increase mortality for individual patients but also interact with each other creating a unique level for each hospital where patient safety suffers overall as a result of medical negligence.

However, according to a column in the New York Times, hospitals that identify their set of factors can make the improvements necessary to protect patients from personal injuries.  Hospitals can schedule their elective surgeries during less busy times and have their staff get vaccinated during flu season to protect patients from exposure.  Additionally, hospitals in an area can work together to develop strategies for diverting patients.     

According to a follow up column in the New York Times, patients who are aware of these factors and in the position to elect when they admit themselves can also protect their safety.  Although both studies’ authors emphasize the variable and individual risk level of each hospital, they did suggest factors for patients to consider.  For transplants, Dr. Darrell A. Campbell Jr., author of the University of Michigan study and chief of clinical affairs at the University of Michigan Health System, suggests that patient volume is positive to a degree.  However, if the overall hospital admission level is too high, consider another hospital.  Dr. Matthew Davis, an associate professor of pediatrics, internal medicine and public policy at the University of Michigan and senior author of the study, suggests that patients speak to their doctors about the timing of a treatment or procedure in relation to the hospital’s workflow and get their flu shot. 

Breakstone, White and Gluck is an experienced medical malpractice, personal injury, and wrongful death law firm in Boston, MA.  The attorneys of Breakstone, White and Gluck have over eighty years of experience litigating in state and federal court.  For assistance with a medical malpractice or other personal injury case, call the firm toll free at 800 379 1244.