Study: Teaching Hospitals Are More Deadly In July

For years, there’s been a saying in the medical community: “Don’t get sick in July.” Why July? That’s when hospitals get their new crops of interns and resident physicians, and many believe a time when we see the most medical mistakes. It’s the so-called “July Effect”. Fact or fiction?

A new study checked into it, and it found there’s a lot of truth to it. Researchers from the University of California at San Diego investigated more than 62 million U.S. death certificates over a 27 year span. Nearly 250,000 of those deaths were caused by medication errors in a hospital. Here’s where it gets interesting (from ABCNews.com):

Month to month, the statistics showed a relatively equal chance for a fatal medication error — except at teaching hospitals in the month of July.

The study found that fatal medication errors spiked by 10 percent in July in counties with a high number of teaching hospitals, but stayed the same in areas without teaching hospitals.

David Phillips, the lead author of the study (found in the current issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine), says “there’s something going on at teaching hospitals in July, and the most common thing people think of was residents starting.”

So if the “July Effect” IS true, if possible, you might want to avoid July for scheduled procedures… at least if you’ll be treated at a teaching hospital.

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