July: A Dangerous Month to Visit the Hospital


July is a wonderful month in many respects, summer is in full swing, and people are enjoying nice weather and time outside. For hospital patients, however, studies show July can be a dangerous time.

Why is this summer month an unfortunate time to visit the hospital? There is a so-called “July Effect”. Every year in July, experienced residents leave the hospitals they have been working at, and new doctors fresh out of medical school arrive to take their places.

Incoming residents not only have less clinical knowledge, but also are inexperienced with hospital systems. For example, being unfamiliar with the hospital’s pharmacy system, new doctors ordering prescriptions may make mistakes in drug dosages. Or, incoming residents may order more unneeded tests resulting in longer hospital stays.

Conventional wisdom among physicians has been that if possible you should avoid hospital stays during July, but now studies are also backing up the dangerous impact of the “July Effect”.

A comprehensive study reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that at teaching hospitals during the month of July, more medical errors and surgery complications occur, and efficiency in patient care declines. Most disturbingly, patient death rates in hospitals were found to increase between eight and 34 percent during July.

Some hospitals are taking steps prevent these problems during the changeover month. These measures include more comprehensive orientation sessions and having the most experienced doctors on-call and ready to assist and advise newer colleagues. Now that the real impact of the “July Effect” has been documented hopefully more institutions will follow suit.

Source: The July Effect: Why Summer is the Most Dangerous Time to Go to the Hospital

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