Doctors should work weekends if U.S. wants healthcare reform

Two professionals walk the course on a golfing weekend.

Less weekend golf and more patient care could turn the tide of health care reform, suggests Peter Orszag (Photo Credit: ThinkStock)

Being a doctor is a difficult job. However, as Peter Orszag suggests in an op-ed column in the New York Times, doctors must do more if America is to achieve any real healthcare reform. Specifically, they must be willing to work weekends, while hospitals must uniformly adopt quality of care metrics that can be measured through health information technology.

Banker’s hours aren’t enough for healthcare reform

Thinking of healthcare reform and quality patient care, Orszag illustrates the discrepancy as follows: Can you imagine a drugstore only open five days a week, or hospitals not subject to a uniform care evaluation? Both examples apply to the U.S. healthcare system.

Considering the former, studies indicate that doctors should work weekends. The New England Journal of Medicine found in 2007 that for every 1,000 heart attack patients admitted to a hospital on a weekend, there were as many as 10 additional deaths when compared with weekday admissions. Invasive procedures took longer to approve for weekend patients, which amounted to precious time lost. Even for less threatening problems, weekend service from one’s primary caregiver would be convenient and ease strain during the week. And Orszag believes that if hospital resources were used to full capacity as opposed to sitting idle, costs would be reduced.

Measure, manage and improve

Establishing clear, uniform metrics for care statistics would go a long way toward improving patient care, as all hospitals in the U.S. would know exactly how they would be evaluated and could focus their energies into those key areas. Government cash advance funds have moved this forward, but more must be done. Updating medical records and procedures into the 21st century via available health information technology will help fight inefficiency. For instance, studies have shown that many routine procedures patients need before being discharged – such as the insertion of a central catheter – are not performed until later in the day. Thus, such patients who are nearly ready to leave are kept in the hospital. Their beds are tied up by this inefficiency, which costs hospitals money. And the potential new patient who needs that bed is made to wait.


New England Journal of Medicine

New York Times

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