Patient Death More Likely in Crowded Hospitals: Study

Results of a new study suggest that patients are more likely to die in a crowded hospital than in one that has less occupancy.  

The mortality risk study, published in the March issue of the journal Medical Care, was conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan. The researchers looked at a number of factors that could affect the risk of dying in a hospital, including occupancy, nurse staffing levels, seasonal influenza and weekend admissions.

According to data gleaned from 166,920 patients admitted to 39 hospitals in Michigan over a three year period, patients in crowded hospitals have a 5.6% higher risk of death than patients in hospitals with low occupancy levels. But researchers said there appears to be no specific occupancy level where there is a clear jump in mortality, and the amount of crowding which results in increased mortality appears to vary from one hospital to another.

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Researchers also found that having higher nursing staff levels decreased the risk of death by 6%, being admitted on a weekend increased the risk of death by 7.5 percent, and being admitted during flu season increases the risk of death by 11.7 percent.

This latest study follows the results of emergency room delay research published in November 2009 in the Archives of Internal Medicine that found that delays in treatment are worsening as hospital emergency rooms are becoming more and more crowded. The study found that just over 75% of patients being seen within the recommended time frame, and also determined that the number of patients being seen in a timely manner is decreasing by about 0.8 percent every year.

Delays could have a ripple effect, resulting in higher rates of morbidity and mortality in hospitals.

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