Is July really the most dangerous month to visit the hospital and if so, why?
It is a basic human nature to minimize the risk of harm to which we intentionally expose ourselves. Most of us wait for traffic to stop and the walk sign to light up before we attempt to cross a busy street. So, if you were told that there were certain times of the year that it was more dangerous to be a patient in the hospital would you take that into consideration when scheduling elective treatment?
While, July is the peak of the summer vacation season for many Americans, July 1st is when hospitals across the country welcome a new crop of recent medical school graduates to begin their residencies. Residencies are the periods of training doctors go through within their particular specialty. Many of these residencies last 3-5 years. While these first year residents are supervised by more experienced physicians, a learning curve exists and mistakes are to be expected with any learning process.
While you may feel fortunate to have the top doctor at a well renowned university affiliated hospital overseeing the care of you and your family, consider however, that your doctor may also be responsible for providing a learning environment for the resident physicians under his tutelage. Sometimes your attending doctors' decision making is influenced by inaccurate or incomplete information provided by the doctor in training.
According to reporting from the "Annals of Internal Medicine" by Dr. John Young, cited in Time Magazine; "... at teaching hospitals responsible for training new doctors, patient death rates increase while efficiency in patient care decreases during the month of July. In these hospitals, admitted patients serve as case studies used to educate future physicians on the best way to provide care; medical residents spend anywhere from three to six years as doctors-in-training, shadowing more experienced physicians as they learn how to diagnose and treat patients."
Note that many hospital administrators are aware of "The July Effect" and take steps to combat it by ensuring that their most experienced on-call doctors are available during the summer months and able to step in to take over or advise when the less experienced new residents cannot handle a particular situation.
The attorneys at Mitchell, Hoffman and Wolf have handled multiple cases where the care of residents in lieu of the attending physician has resulted in serious consequences. These cases involve situations where residents have failed to timely report changes in the patient 's condition, report significant x-ray results or communicate laboratory values which if properly acted upon would have prevented serious injury and in some instances, death.
So what can you do to protect yourself? Find out if your hospital is a teaching hospital, and if so whether residents will be involved in your care. Ask what their protocol is to avoid errors resulting from the "The July Effect".
Do not let them dismiss your concern, be confident acting as an advocate for yourself and your family to ensure you receive the best possible care.
Should you have any concerns or questions about "The July Effect" please do not hesitate to contact the lawyers at Mitchell Hoffman & Wolf.