Monday, October 17, 2005

Sports-related drop in ER visits

A study published in Annals of Emergency Medicine (which I need to start reading) found that hospital ER visits in Boston drastically fell during important Red Sox games. Although sports-related drops like this have been found before, the Boston researchers were the first to chart a direct correlation between the time of the games and the exact volume of ER patients.

From the New Scientist article:
One explanation for the startling correlation is that while people are watching TV, they are sedentary and fairly safe. “People are at home watching the games so they are probably not getting into trouble,” explains Brownstein.
Huh. That's a really interesting idea. The article goes on:
Another is that people who attend ER are often not experiencing a medical emergency in the true sense of the word. “There is clearly some discretionary component that explains the timing,” says co-author Kenneth Mandl of Harvard Medical School.
Now that's more in line with what I thinking. I'm fairly certain that when most people think about emergency rooms, they're thinking about car wrecks and snake bites and heart attacks. All true, and then there's the vague abdominal pain, migraines, and minor lacerations that aren't rush-you-right-in emergencies. The latter are what fill up ER waiting rooms.

At the hospital I worked at, Mondays are typically very busy and it slows down a bit as the week progresses with another bump up on the weekend. This makes sense when you consider that doctor's offices and some public clinics are not open on the weekend and usually booked up at least several days out, so any problems people experience over the weekend will bring them in on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday.

Then I noticed a curious thing. Whenever Monday was a holiday, that Monday wasn't very busy. However, Tuesday would be slammed. So I conjectured that some people didn't want to interrupt their three-day weekend with a visit to the ER. That's the "discretionary component" one of the Boston researchers cited.

I'd love to see more research done in this area to nail down the specifics of why this drop in visits occurs. Is it because patients are choosing to do something else instead of going to the hospital, or is it because what they're doing is keeping them relatively safer?

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