Background: We know very little about differences in Emergency Department (ED) utilization and acuity on weekends compared with weekdays. Understanding such differences may help elucidate the role of the ED in the health care delivery system.
Study objective: To compare patterns of ED use on weekends with weekdays and analyze the differences between these two groups.
Methods: The Health Care Utilization Project (HCUP) is a national state-by-state billing database from acute-care, non-federal hospitals. Data from Nebraska in 2004 was used to compare ED-only patient visits (patients discharged home or transferred to another health care facility) and ED-admitted visits (patients admitted to the same hospital after an ED visit) for weekend vs. weekday frequency, billed charges, sex, age, and primary payer.
Results: Of all non-admitted patients who visited the ED, 34.5% came in on weekends. This yielded ED utilization rates of 25 visits/1,000 people on weekdays and 33 visits/1,000 people on weekends, an increase of 32% on weekends. Weekend-only ED patients of all ages and payer categories were charged lower hospital facility fees than weekday-only ED patients; USD 777 vs. USD 921, respectively (p < 0.001). Weekend ED patients were less likely to be admitted and less likely to die while in the ED (2 deaths/1000 ED visits for weekend-only patients vs. 3 deaths/1000 ED visits for weekday-only [p < 0.001]).
Conclusions: In Nebraska, EDs care for a greater number of low-acuity patients on weekends than on weekdays. This highlights the important role EDs play within the ambulatory care delivery system.
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