Mortality rates and the holidays: hospital medicine’s untold story
Published in the December 2005 issue of Today's Hospitalist
With the holidays in full gear, the last thing you want to think about is the mortality rate of your patients in the hospital. But as the story on page 6 in this issue points out, increased mortality among heart attack patients admitted in December is a well-known phenomenon in U.S. hospitals.
While no one can explain the uptick in mortality, a new study says that it’s not because of the care these patients receive. The study found that just as many patients receive standard therapy like aspirin, beta-blockers and PCI as patients admitted during other months of the year.
The study leaves many unanswered questions, but it helps to refute the idea that hospitals are dropping the ball with these patients because clinicians are distracted—or taking time off—during the holidays. With so many hospitals feeling beat up by performance data being reported on the Web and in newspapers, the study brings some welcome news.
It’s true that many hospitals can do better when it comes to their treatment for myocardial infarction. But they can also take solace in the fact that at a time when much of the rest of the world shuts down, physicians and nurses remain on the job, doing the right thing for their patients.
For physicians who spend most of their time in the hospital, none of this will come as earth-shattering news. It is, however, an important part of the story of hospital medicine. It’s also one that all too often goes untold.