The Best and Worst Times to Be Hospitalized

It turns out that timing may be everything.


According to research, timing matters when it comes to scheduling doctors appointments and surgeries. Doctor clock image via Shutterstock.

Sure, your superstitious friends might avoid going to the doctor at a particular time of the year, month, or day. But the rest of us rational folk just head to the doctor any time we need to. The care we get will always be the same, right?

Well, according to a slew of studies, your superstitious friends might be on to something. It is, in fact, better to head to the doctor at certain times of the year, the day and even the hour.

So when should you go to the doctor? Researchers from Johns Hopkins have confirmed that it is best to avoid being hospitalized in the month of July, which is when that year’s graduating medical students begin working as residents. A review of almost 3,000 surgeries found a higher rate of complications and mortalities during July surgeries than during any other month.

Research also shows that you should avoid being admitted to the hospital on public holidays. People admitted to the emergency room on those days were 48 percent more likely to be dead a week later, as compared to patients who were admitted on non-holidays.

And it’s not just the time of year that matters; the clock matters, too. Surgeries performed later in the day are often less effective and conclusive, reports from Duke University Medical Center say. The likelihood of problems associated with anesthesia increased from one percent at 9 a.m. to 4.2 percent at 4 p.m., perhaps because the doctors became tired as the day progressed.

Going into labor at night is also not ideal, according to a Stanford study. There is a 25 percent greater risk of neonatal death during night births, and an infant is 16 percent more likely to die following a late-night birth.

So what should you do? Plan accordingly: don’t schedule surgeries in July or later in the day. Try not to have an emergency on a holiday weekend, and avoid going into labor at night.

Okay, yeah right. We know that you can’t plan for the timing of your next medical emergency. So remember, too, that these studies are conducted to help doctors identify risk factors so that they can be extra vigilant, and are not a tried and true rule.