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Fatal medical errors increase each July due to new doctors

More medical errors occur in July because of new doctors, according to a study conducted by University of California professor David Phillips and student Gwendolyn Barker. 

The study, which is published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, notes that medical errors, such as accidental overdose and administering the wrong drug, increase when “thousands of new students began their residencies at teaching hospitals across the country,” typically in the month of July.

According to their findings, which took into consideration deaths caused by medication error from 1979 to 2006, July has the most deaths due to drug error. In fact, deaths due to drug error are about 10 percent higher in July than any other month.  Phillips and Barker note that July is “the only month in the given year to see such a dramatic increase.”

But the study’s findings are only true in areas that have teaching hospitals and only when a drug mistake resulted in a patient’s death. Phillips told Medpage Today that “there was no ‘July effect’ in counties without teaching hospitals.”

Since this study has highlighted a pattern in medical errors, particularly errors in drug administration, hospitals should take note and revise their training formats for new doctors.  Incorrect drug administration can lead to permanent injury and in many cases death, as this study has shown. Over the 27-year study, Phillips and Barker researched, “244,388 U.S. death certificates with a cause of death linked to medication errors.”

Phillips said that this information should spark hospitals to “re-evaluat[e] responsibilities assigned to new residents, increase[e] supervision of new residents, and increase[e] education concerned with medication safety.” Our law firm wholeheartedly agrees. Now that information has been published and is readily available, hospitals should use it to better ensure the safety of their patients.


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