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Authored by: Richard N. Shapiro

Several recent studies have indicated that medical mistakes may occur with increased frequency based upon the timing of an individual’s contact with the medical community. For instance, the American Journal of Gastroenterology recently completed a study that examined an increase in successful completion of colonoscopies performed in the morning verus the afternoon. The article author believes the difference was due to increased operator fatigue in the afternoon.

The New England Journal of Medicine recently reported on a study examining the differences in survival rates between patients admitted to a hospital with a heart attack on the weekend verus weekdays. This study found that more patients died who were originally admitted on weekends. This is believed to be due to that fact that invasive cardiac procedures are ideally preformed on the day of admission or the day thereafter. Any further delay can significantly increase the risk of death.

Another study in the same issue of the New England Journal of Medical showed a surge in adverse events on weekends. This was believed to be due to inadequate staffing shortages which routinely occur in hospitals on the weekends.

By organizing certain aspects of your health life and becoming more informed you can exert some control; for instance:

1. Don’t plan an elective surgery in a teaching hospital in the summer months if possible because this is when new interns and residents begin their training.

2. Try and schedule your colonoscopy for the morning.

3. If you are not feeling well during the week, don’t wait until the weekend to see if you feel better. Contact your doctor no later than Thursday where more staff is available and there is still time for you to be seen.

4. Be sure to carefully check the accuracy of your prescriptions, particularly at the beginning of the month in as much as this is when most prescription errors occur.

For more information on this subject, please refer to our section on Medical Malpractice and Negligent Care.

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