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Despite extensive research on the “weekend effect” i.e., the increased mortality associated with hospital admission during weekend, knowledge about disease severity in previous studies is limited. The aim of this study is to examine patient characteristics, including disease severity, 30-day mortality, and length of stay (LOS), according to time of admission to an emergency department.
Our study encompassed all patients admitted to a Danish emergency department in 2014–2015. Using data from electronic patient records, this study examines patient characteristics including age, gender, Charlson Comorbidity Index score, triage score, and primary diagnosis. Triage score and transfer to intensive care unit (ICU) were used as indicators of disease severity. LOS within the department and within the hospital was examined. Age- and sex-standardized 30-day mortality rates comparing patients with the same triage score admitted at daytime, evening, and nighttime on weekdays and on weekends were computed. To test differences, a Cox regression analysis was added.
We included 35,459 patient visits, of which 10,435 (32%) started on a weekend. There were no large differences in baseline characteristics between patients admitted on weekdays and those admitted on weekends. The relative risk (RR) for being triaged orange or red was 1.16 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.06–1.28, P = 0.0017) for weekend admissions as compared with weekday admissions. Weekend admissions were twice as likely as weekday admissions to be transferred to the ICU (RR, 1.96; 95% CI 1.53–2.52, P = 0.0000). No significant changes were found in LOS. The 30-day mortality rate increased with disease severity regardless of time of admission. When comparing the 30-day mortality rate for patients with the same triage score, the trend was toward a higher mortality when admission occurred during the weekend. Increasing mortality rate was significant for patients admitted at evening on weekends with a hazard ratio of 1.32 (95% CI 1.03–1.70, P = 0.027) when compared with patients admitted on daytime on weekdays.
When comparing weekday and weekend admissions, the 30-day mortality rate increased for patients admitted at evening on weekends after adjusting for comorbidity and triage score, indicating that the weekend effect was independent of changes in illness severity.