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MI Health Matters - Study Shows High Hospital Death Rate Correlated with High Occupancy

As a Detroit personal injury lawyer representing individuals who have sustained personal injury in an accident, it is nearly impossible to ignore problems presented regarding patient care. Persons who have sustained any form of personal injury trust that health care professionals will deliver the best care–ultimately that their visit to the hospital will make their ailments better, not worse. However, in a recent study completed by the University of Michigan, the higher the occupancy a hospital has, the more likely the chances are of a patient dying while receiving medical attention from the hospital.

Published in the March issue of Medical Care, the University of Michigan published the study, stating the when the occupancy of a hospital is high, the chances of a patient dying while in hospital care increases 5.6 percent. To come to these conclusions, researchers compared important factors that affect hospital deaths, including hospital occupancy, nurse staffing levels, weekend admission, and seasonal illnesses. While adding more nurses to the staff decreased the chances of a patient dying by 6 percent, weekend admissions to the hospital increased the chance by 7.5 percent–ultimately nullifying the care the extra nurses are meant to deliver. During influenza seasons, the risk of dying in a hospital further increases to 11.1 percent. Additionally, researchers maintain that since the study was done on such a large-scale – 166,920 adult patients in 39 Michigan hospitals – that it could be generalized to apply to hospitals nationwide.

However, authors want readers of the study to put its findings in realistic terms. According to co-author Matthew M. Davis, “Hospital occupancy changes from day to day, so patients shouldn’t try to choose a hospital based on its occupancy level.” However, he also mentioned that the findings from studies such as these are meant to encourage hospitals to examine not only the flow of patients, but also the processes of their care during high occupancy times such as weekends during flu season. “Those are more challenging moments when more things can go wrong,” David added.

This study highlights the idea of “block access” to medical care, which is concern of a Detroit personal injury attorney. This occurs when a fully occupied hospital prevents patients in need of emergency care an inpatient hospital bed, which ultimately prolongs waiting periods for time-critical medical care. Authors, along with personal injury legal counsel hope that this study serves as an alert to hospitals to reevaluate their means of providing patient care during high occupancy periods. Doing so can help ensure that all injured individuals seeking medical attention will leave the hospital in better condition than which they entered.