Now that summer is here, many people will be heading outdoors to enjoy the warm weather. Unfortunately for some, rather than being a month for camping, fishing or playing baseball, July may usher in a visit to the hospital. If you find yourself in this predicament, or someone you know does, you may want to hear the latest health news from a study recently performed at the University of California.
Researchers at the university say that there is a greater risk for death and poorer quality of care in the month of July at teaching hospitals. Their observations come from an analysis of 39 studies that looked at a phenomenon commonly known as the “July Effect.” The July Effect refers to the specific time of year when experienced medical residents in training depart their assigned teaching hospital, to be replaced by newly graduated and less experienced interns.
Analyzing the possible consequences to patient health, the study team looked at the results of 39 English-language studies that were conducted between 1989 and 2010. The team focused on the July rate of fatalities, medical complications and medical errors at teaching hospitals, as well as overall hospital efficiency variables such as patient hospitalization times, medical costs and operating room time, compared to other months.
They found that patient fatality rates tended to go up during July staff changeovers, while care efficiency went down. And that, the research team concluded, means that the July Effect is real.
The researchers had this health advice for hospitals: take this problem seriously and take specific steps to deal with the risks. They suggest testing the competency and clinical skills of new residents when they take up new positions, and making sure that the level of responsibility they are given is appropriate.
What the researchers don’t want you to do — based on the results of their study — is to delay care because of concerns over the July Effect. Instead, follow these recommendations if you find yourself in need of a hospital visit in July:
–Try to include a family member or a friend in the process. You should bring them with you to the hospital, so they can advocate for you.
–Don’t hesitate to ask to speak to the experienced attending physician who will always be there overseeing the team.
Remember that you can also get your doctor’s advice about how best to approach a hospital visit so that you are prepared ahead of time.