Hospital deaths spike in July
New study shows 'July Effect' is real, and that patients should practice caution while accepting medical care in that month or over the weekend.
Fri, Jul 16, 2010 at 06:09 PM
If you've ever been unlucky enough to seek hospital care on the weekend, you might have noticed your care was more frazzled. Health care workers have noted for years that the same is true for care given in July. Now, two new studies show that there are statistical facts to support this theory. Msnbc.com reports on the “July Effect,” which shows it is statistically more dangerous to seek hospital care during the month of July. Further, it is more dangerous to be admitted to the ICU on a weekend.
A recent study from the University of California, Davis, shows that fatal medication errors rose 10 percent in July at teaching hospitals in the United States. Around 1.7 million potentially deadly infections occur each year in U.S. hospitals, but many deaths happen in July.
David P. Phillips is the sociology professor who led the study. As he told Msnbc.com, “The best available explanation was that this increase was associated with changes associated with the new residents.” In other words, the deaths are most likely due to inexperience. Phillips looked at more than 62 million U.S. death certificates from 1979 to 2006. Only in July did deaths go up.
Another study shows hospitals operate on the weekend “like they are a 7/11,” leading to a jump in weekend deaths in the ICU. Dr. Paul E. Marik is an internist who helped conduct the study. He points out that the reason is obvious — people can’t plan when they get sick, so it is off to the hospital on weekends. But as he told Msnbc.com, “scant off-hours staffing and other administrative problems — including low doctor-to-patient ratios and difficulty obtaining necessary tests and therapies — likely contribute to the increased weekend deaths in the ICU.”
So what to do, other than try not to get sick in July or the weekends? Experts suggest that we be vigilant with our treatment, ask questions of new doctors, and to understand exactly what is being prescribed and why. Don’t delay treatment. If you fall off your bike on a Sunday afternoon, go in and treat the situation like its Monday morning. And just try not to get sick in July.
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