New Study Reveals Most Potentially Deadly Medical Mistakes Happen in July

July 20, 2011

1314902_medical_doctor.jpgAlthough preventable medical mistakes frequently occur throughout the year, new research suggests that July may be the most dangerous month for hospital patients seeking care. It's a troubling phenomenon known as the "July Effect," when new medical residents begin arriving at teaching hospitals nationwide and patient death rates consequently spike. Nearly 100,000 people die every year from preventable medical errors, and many of these victims have sought legal help from our medical malpractice attorneys. The latest study confirms that quality healthcare continues to be a serious concern, particularly during the summer months.

According to Time magazine, researchers recently concluded that the "July Effect" is more than just an urban myth. A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows that death rates at teaching hospitals increase by at least 8 percent in July, when experienced medical residents graduate and new medical trainees arrive. These new doctors are caring for vulnerable patients for the first time, resulting in increased surgical complications and boosting the number of serious or even fatal medical mistakes.

One possible explanation for the decreased quality of care is that inexperienced doctors may be unfamiliar with the hospital pharmacy system, making them more likely to prescribe wrong medications or wrong doses of medications. The study also found that longer hospital stays, higher medical bills, and unnecessary tests occur more during July.

The so-called "July Effect" is a serious problem affecting about 100,000 staff members in teaching hospitals throughout the country. Some hospitals are taking notice, conducting detailed orientation sessions to ensure that doctors are properly trained and placing more experienced doctors on-call for emergencies during the summer months. But we believe more needs to be done in order to avoid preventable complications. All hospitals should have programs in place to make sure that patients receive consistent quality care, regardless of whether they get sick in July or any other month of the year. Hospitals, doctors, and nurses owe patients a legal duty of care, and this duty is obviously being violated far too often.

Another recent study highlights the importance on the day of the week in which a patient is admitted. Research shows an increased number of deaths for people admitted to the intensive care unit on the weekends, as opposed to during the week. Staffing and administrative problems are usually to blame, along with necessary tests that are not always available or take longer to perform on the weekends.

Statistics also show that least 18 percent of all hospital patients are injured during the course of their stay, and many of these injuries are deadly. In order to avoid these preventable complications, new medical trainees need to be adequately trained and supervised, and experienced physicians should at least be on call to handle emergencies or combat fatigue. Patients cannot control the day and month they suffer a medical emergency and expect to receive the same level of effective care. When patients and their families are harmed by a preventable medical mistake, they can seek compensation for their injuries with the help of an experienced medical malpractice attorney.