Patients May be Ill Advised to Visit Hospitals in July: Recently Reviewed Studies Confirm that Hospital Deaths Spike in Summer Months
Patients should always be aware of the possibility for medical negligence or medical malpractice when visiting a hospital or any other medical facility. However, recently reviewed studies show that July may be the most dangerous month for patients in large, teaching hospitals. What has been know as the "July Effect" by many in the medical field describes the spike in medical errors seen when new resident physicians arrive at a teaching hospital.
Prior to the release of a new review of several studies on the matter, what has been known as the "July Effect" was largely unsubstantiated. However, this review, which was co-authored by Dr. John Q. Young, the associate program director for the residency training program in psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, found that medical malpractice and patient death rates did indeed increase during the summer months in teaching hospitals, especially in July. The review not only indicated an 8 % increase in patient death rates in July, but it also indicated that patient hospital stays were longer and hospital charges were higher in the month of July.
The review analyzes 39 studies that have been conducted on this issue and is published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. In their review of these studies, Dr. Young and his team focused on the findings of the larger and higher quality studies. The findings confirmed that medical errors and mortality rates in teaching hospitals do increase in and near the month of July.
"The July Effect," as it has come to be known, is caused by the changeover that occurs at many teaching hospitals in July. During this month, 20-30% of the more experienced resident doctors leave the hospital, and these doctors are replaced with less experienced first year residents. Dr. Young told The New York Times' Vital Signs: "This changeover is dramatic, and it affects everything. It's like a football team in a high-stakes game, and in the middle of that final drive you bring out four or five players who never played in the pros before and don't know the playbook, and the players that remained get changed to positions they never played before, and they never practiced together. That's what happens in July." Also according to Dr. Young, it is not just the new residents' lack of knowledge that may pose risks for patients coming into hospitals in July, but the increase in medical errors and deaths may also be attributed to the new residents' general lack of familiarity with the hospital and its systems.