Study: "July Effect" on medical mistakes is real

June 2, 2010 2:07:30 PM PDT
For years, it's been the adage in the medical community: "Don't get sick in July."

That's when hospitals received their new crops of interns and resident physicians.

According to the lore, the "July effect" or "July phenomenon" means chaotic, disorganized care at academic medical facilities.

It's been difficult to prove - until now.

A California research team says they have found a 10% spike in deaths due to medication errors in July, and it only happens in U-S counties with teaching hospitals.

Sociologist David Phillips, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Diego, and public health graduate student Gwendolyn Barker of the UCLA, studied more than 62 million electronic death certificates issued from 1979 through 2006.

They zeroed in onthen focused on the 244,388 in which fatal medication errors were recorded as the primary cause of death.

They found that errors spiked exclusively in July, and only in those counties with teaching hospitals.

Those counties without teaching hospitals had no uptick in errors.

The authors say their findings provide fresh evidence for re-evaluating residents' responsibilities, supervising new residents and increasing education about medical safety to reduce the costs associated with fatal and non-fatal medical errors.