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July effect in hospitals limited

Massachusetts residents who fear the "July Effect" may have misplaced anxiety. The "July Effect" is a phenomenon that leads to lower patient care due to an influx of new doctors with less experience. A new study indicates that there is some cause for concern about mistakes related to care and surgical errors for individuals entering hospitals in July, but only for patients who are considered high-risk due to their age or a serious medical condition. Additionally, it appears that only individuals entering teaching hospitals have anything to worry about.

Researchers at the Harvard Medical School in Boston looked at data from May or July between 2002 and 2008. The data contained information about patients who were hospitalized for a heart attack and were either a high- or low-risk patient. Individuals were taken to either one of 98 hospitals that were focused on teaching new doctors or one of 1,353 hospitals that did not have a focus on training.

It was determined that there was a small reduction in the quality of care provided by teaching hospitals in the month of July, after new doctors arrived at hospitals. In May, the average rate of death for high risk patients at these hospitals was 19 percent, but in July, the rate of death rose to 23 percent. For non-teaching hospitals, the percentage of at-risk individuals who died in May was essentially the same as in July.

Just because a doctor is new does not mean that they have a valid excuse for negligence that leads to a patient's death. Family members of individuals who have been harmed or died as a result of poor care may be able to pursue legal recourse against a hospital as well as being owed compensation for damages.

Source: New York Daily News, "'July effect' true for only sickest heart attack patients: study", November 08, 2013

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