For long now, doctors have noticed that the number of medical errors is constant for all months of the year, except in July when there is a noticeable spike in medication errors. It has been suspected that this spike is because more interns are coming in at teaching hospitals during this month. A study by researchers at UC San Diego, now confirms this.
The researchers have published the results of a study, that show that July is easily the worst month when it comes to medication errors. In fact, it’s the worst month that you could choose to check into a hospital, simply because you’re likely to be treated by inexperienced interns. The rate of medical errors in the month of July is 10% higher than in other months of the year.
Doctors and Indiana medical malpractice lawyers have long been aware of the so-called “July Effect,” but so far, there has been very little evidence to prove that there is indeed such a link. There have been studies conducted earlier, but these only took into consideration small representative samples that could not deliver confirmed results. The last study that confirmed any such link between high rates of medical errors and fresh interns, was conducted by Australian researchers. That study showed an increase in medical errors in the month of February, which happens to be the first month of the academic year of medical school in that country.
In the US study, researchers studied 62,330,584 hospital deaths from 1979 to 2006. They focused hard on more than 244,000 deaths that were linked to medication errors. They found that medication error-linked deaths increased by 10% in counties with teaching hospitals. However, there was no such increase in deaths at non-teaching hospitals. Interestingly enough, they did not find any increase in deaths outside the hospital, and there was also no spike in other possible causes of deaths in hospitals during the same period.
Obviously, this calls for a better evaluation of the kind of responsibilities that interns are given, as well as enhanced supervision of new residents at hospitals. It’s also evident from the findings that we need a greater focus on medication safety, since these are contributing to the most number of hospital errors and deaths during this month.