Should Health Care Be Available 24/7?

Doctors, like most people, don’t love to work weekends… [But] imagine a drugstore open only five days a week… It’s never good to be hospitalized, but you really don’t want to be hospitalized on a weekend. There are fewer doctors around, and people admitted on Saturdays and Sundays fare relatively poorly.

One study in 2007 found, for example, that for every 1,000 patients suffering heart attacks who were admitted to a hospital on a weekend, there were 9 to 10 more deaths than in a comparable group of patients admitted on a weekday. The weekend patients were less likely to quickly receive the invasive procedures they needed — like coronary artery bypass grafts or cardiac catheterization.

It’s not just a safety issue but, for less life-threatening medical problems, also a matter of convenience. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to schedule your elective surgery on a Saturday if you wanted? Most hospitals don’t offer that option.

Good editorial by Peter Orszag in The New York Times.

Comments (8)

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  1. Neil H. says:

    Yes it should be 24/7. And it would be if patients were paying the bill. Minute Clinics don’t close up shop on the weekends do they?

  2. Ken says:

    As with so many other Peter Orszag ideas on health care, Peter recognizes a problem but doesn’t know why we have it or what it would take to solve it.

  3. Devon Herrick says:

    If you think it’s tough to get care in the United States on a weekend, try to get care in France during the month of August. The summer of 2005 was unbearably hot in France and thousands of seniors died in nursing homes from the heat. The homes were grossly under-staffed due to the collective August vacations the French always take.

  4. Joe S. says:

    Grocery stores and drug stores stay open all night because their customers have needs all night and they compete for customers based on cost and convenience. I’m sure there is a lesson in here for health care somewhere.

  5. Virginia says:

    Isn’t it funny how medical emergencies always seem to happen on weekends or weekdays at midnight?

  6. Virginia says:

    Furthermore, I think the idea of a “weekend” is an antiquated notion. In the digital world, there is no such thing as a weekend. Or sleep, for that matter. Companies that run their office on shift work are probably the future. More than that, nontraditional, cloud computing is the next big era. We’re wasting money, productivity, and creativity by being tied to a 9-5, M-F schedule. And the 40-hour work week… the one-size-fits-all solution. GRRRRRR….

  7. Joe Barnett says:

    Yes, many drug stores, at least here in Texas, close at night & especially on Sundays, due to shortages of trained personnel and the cost versus the volume of business. In metro areas, there are a few open 24 hours, but not in small towns.

  8. Dr. Wes says:

    The concept is so easy isn’t it? Who wouldn’t want this? Makes perfect sense, etc.

    Until you’re the one tasked with assuring coverage, taking the calls, and being on call every third night covering four hospitals.

    Suddenly, concept meets reality, and until the doctor shortage is addressed, dream on. You can’t drop pay, then flog a dead horse without affecting quality.

    Unless of course the administrators would like to take my pages. No doubt it would all be perfect then.