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20 Degree Rule of Healthcare

Posted Jan 18 2009 8:45am
Healthcare like any other business sector has its ebbs and flows, peaks for demand and lulls. After working in emergency medicine for several years it is interesting to see what some of us call the 20 degree rule come into play.

The 20 degree rule is a meteorological phenomenon that affects the workload of many if not most emergency departments in most hospitals. Traditionally a northern geographic occurrence where temperature ranges can be quite large; it is theoretically possible to see this event in warmer climates. Specifically there is a marked reduction in demand for emergency services when the outside temperature drops approximately 20 degrees during the winter months when it is customarily cold.


The phenomenon affects both walk-inpatient loads as well as EMS traffic volume. The occurrence of such an incident is even more pronounced during the evening and nighttime periods.

Unfortunately there is no academic literature that I have found to support this strange medico- meteorological occurrence, but clearly a topic of such magnitude is worthy of some credible research time and analysis. That being said, the incident does exist. Perhaps in time with the right data, hospitals could look to local news authorities for weather reports to tailor staffing needs. Another potential cost savings for healthcare. . Hey back in the days the masses thought the world was flat.
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