WEDNESDAY, Oct. 21, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Stroke patients have a higher risk of death if they're admitted to a rural hospital on the weekend, a new study finds.
University of Georgia researchers analyzed 2016 data on stroke deaths at U.S. hospitals to learn whether the so-called "weekend effect" influenced stroke outcomes.
"The weekend effect is the phenomenon where the risk of bad or adverse outcomes, such as mortality in our study, increases for those who are admitted to the hospital over the weekend as opposed to a weekday," said lead author Birook Mekonnen, who was a graduate student in the College of Public Health when the research was conducted.
There was evidence to support the weekend effect in all hospitals. But outcomes were especially poor for rural patients who had hemorrhagic (bleeding) strokes on a weekend, as opposed to ischemic strokes (ones caused by blocked blood flow to the brain).
But the time of week may be just one factor in unfavorable outcomes for rural stroke patients, according to study co-author Donglan Zhang, an assistant professor of health policy and management in public health.
Zhang noted that rural hospitals tend to have fewer resources, including stroke specialists and equipment for particularly severe cases. They also serve a wider area and it's not uncommon for rural patients to be more than an hour's drive from the nearest hospital.
The researchers said one way to protect stroke patients from the weekend effect is to invest in telemedicine. They noted that more rural hospitals are joining telestroke care networks, enabling them to connect with specialists and collaborate on treatment for stroke patients.
Mekonnen advised people who are at risk for stroke or other major health problems to look into the telemedicine options available to them. "This may be the new norm," he said in a university news release.
The findings were published in the October issue of the Journal of Stroke & Cerebrovascular Diseases.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on stroke.
SOURCE: University of Georgia, news release, October 2020