The July Effect: The Most Dangerous Month in Medicine

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A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found evidence that July is indeed the most dangerous month to be treated at teaching hospitals, verifying the long-presumed existence of the “July Effect.”

The Study Methodology & Findings

Researchers analyzed data from 39 previous studies. Based on the best-quality studies, they found that patient deaths increase by 8% in July in comparison to other months. The study report also said that patients experience longer hospitals stays, longer procedures, and higher medical bills in July.

Understanding the July Effect

The proffered reason for the greater risk of medical errors in July is the influx of new medical residents – doctors in training – and the exodus of the most experienced residents. The report’s lead author, Dr. John Q. Young, associate program director for the residency training program in psychiatry at the University of California-San Francisco, stated that 20-30% of experienced residents leave and new doctors begin in July. This lack of experienced staff creates more instances of medical error and medical malpractice.

Of the resident shift in July, Dr. Young said it is like changing players in the middle of a high-stakes football game, bringing out new 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.”

Protecting Yourself and Your Loved Ones

If this sounds pretty scary, please know that you can request a senior resident be present for any treatment you receive from a first-year resident. The American Hospital Association also states that you have the right to ask if the doctor performing the procedure has recently started training. Perhaps most importantly, make sure your attending doctor – the one responsible for overseeing the residents – is actively involved in your care.  Ask questions of him/her, and make sure it the attending doctor – not the physician-in-training – who is determining your plan of care.

Hospital Negligence + Medical Error + Medical Malpractice + Patient Safety


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