July is here so you might want to avoid the hospital if at all possible. Conventional wisdom has long held that the quality of care in hospitals plummets during the month of July.
But now a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on July 11 confirms that suspicion. Why is July so problematic?
Because on or around July 1, fresh, inexperienced interns, residents, nurses and other new health care workers first report to work at many of the nation’s hospitals, eager to start practicing medicine — on you.
In medical circles it’s known as the “July effect.”
The new study reviewed data from 39 previous studies that tracked health results in teaching hospitals — including death rates and complications from medical procedures. The best designed and largest studies, the authors found, showed mortality rates increase 4 to 12 percent in July and revealed that many patients remain in the hospital longer, spend more time in surgery and have higher hospital charges in July than in other months.
John Young, M.D., psychiatrist with the University of California San Francisco and co-author of the study, said the “July effect” occurs when new trainees replace experienced physicians. The new doctors have little experience caring for patients, often aren’t well supervised and don’t yet know the hospital system.
Even before this latest research, experts have been wary of July.
“You may get more personal attention, but the skill level isn’t there,” explains veteran physician David Sherer, M.D., past director of risk management for a large insurance provider and coauthor of Dr. David Sherer’s Hospital Survival Guide. “You have newcomers arriving at hospitals — often placed in a sink-or-swim situation — and they don’t know where anything is or how anything is done. July is not the time to have elective surgery or another procedure that could be postponed.”