TGIF for me but not for thee

Really interesting stuff in an op-ed in today’s Times from Peter Orzag. He looks at a simple, single fact. Doctors don’t work weekends. Something I’d never thought about, much less noticed. But Orzag makes a great case for the need to change that.

My favorite part:

“And then there are the economics of a $750 billion-a-year industry letting its capacity sit idle a quarter or more of the time. If hospitals were in constant use, costs would fall as expensive assets like operating rooms and imaging equipment were used more fully. And if the workflow at existing hospitals was spread more evenly over the entire week, patients could more often enjoy the privacy of single-bed rooms.”

I love food for thought.

3 responses to “TGIF for me but not for thee

  1. Hi, Moe! About hospitals “sitting idle a quarter of the time,” I don’t think Orzag has been in one for awhile. Ours is always close to capacity and nurses are in short supply. Operating rooms and imaging equipment have to have qualified people to run them too.

    As for doctors not working on weekends, only partially true. Doctors (and dentists) are on-call around the clock, unless they have an associate to cover for them occasionally. (My husband was a dentist for 30 years and we would get calls at midnight from patients who put off coming in during the week for a toothache because they “didn’t have the time.” Some of these same people would be deeply offended if they had to work on a weekend.) So, it may sound good on paper, but Orzag needs to be in the trenches with the health care providers and then see if he feels the same way.
    I like your title for this post, btw! 🙂

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  2. Moe, I dunno about this either. Hospital residents – the ones who really do all the work in the hospital – work insane hours. The senior attending physicians indeed have some pretty cushy hours – but the residents sometimes work 30 hour shifts. I have regularly asked why people think this is a good system – and I have never received a satisfactory answer.

    Apparently the feds are looking into it:

    http://www.fresnobee.com/2010/09/11/2075154/feds-scrutinize-medical-residents.html

    One of my former students, now on the Med School faculty at Michigan State, told me that her goal during residency was to save more people than she killed. She thought that in the end she was successful, but it was close….

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  3. My admiration for this well written op ed must fade somewhat in the company of those who know what they’re talking about! It rang true for me because office hours are so often only M-F so working people have to take time off – for them or their kids.

    As for hospitals, let me note that last week I spent quite a bit of time in our local hosptial which used to be terrific. Not so great (or clean!) anymore. The staff and the dr’s are just as terrific as they always were, but the facilitiy itself has gone downhill.

    And guess what – it had been a not for profit hospital for decades but they were forced to sell a few years back. They did – to a for profit chain.

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