Study: July Is the Worst Month for Fatal Hospital Mistakes

by | July 7, 2011 at 3:40 PM | General, TV News

The “July Effect” isn’t caused by too much fun in the sun. It’s much more serious and even deadly.

A new study says the “July Effect” is what happens when medical students who’ve recently graduated report to hospitals for duty, resulting in more fatal medical errors than in any other month of the year.

This isn’t true of all hospitals, however. The study that ABC World News reported on, from the Journal of General Internal Medicine, discovered that counties with teaching hospitals saw a 10 percent spike in fatal medication errors in July.

This information is nothing new to some doctors.

“You’ve got people who are inexperienced. You’ve also got people who are trying to learn a new system,” said Dr. David Orentlicher, a medical doctor and professor of law at Indiana University, who wasn’t surprised to hear about the findings, but added that “there have been some improvements” in the supervision of residents who often work 36-hour shifts.

Get caught up on summer’s hit medical show “Combat Hospital”:

David Phillips, the lead author of the study and a professor of sociology at the University of California at San Diego didn’t want to place all of the blame on new residents. He took into account deaths that occurred due to allergic reactions to medicine as well as out-of-hospital fatalities that could have been caused by factor out of the doctor’s reach, like mixing medications or taking with alcohol.

Another theory for the rise of fatal hospital errors in July was offered up by Dr. Joanne Conroy, chief health care officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges.

“Even though we associated July with new residents, actually there are a lot of new caregivers in July,” explained Dr. Conroy. “It’s probably a time where there are a lot of health professionals assuming new responsibilities. Everybody moves up.”

Dr. Conroy wants to see more data before pinning the brunt of the blame on overworked and inexperienced residents before believing they are the sole reason for the “July Effect.”

“The study brings up more questions than it gives answers, but it’s certainly not anything we are ignoring and dismissive of at all,” she said.