Last month, my colleague discussed the so-called "July effect" at teaching hospitals and mentioned new research showing that medical errors spike every year during that month. (New doctors begin their residencies on July 1.) USA Today writer Kim Painter explores the issue today and provides some reassurances for summer patients:
But that very worry [about the influx of new people on July 1] has led to a number of changes, says Joanne Conroy, chief health care officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges. One change is that residents now typically report to hospitals at least a week in advance. "When I started in 1983, you showed up July 1," she says.
Another is that medical errors by residents and other health care personnel are more fully and honestly reported, she says. She speculates that better reporting might explain why fatal errors didn't seem to fall in the recent study.
All the experts agree: Whether you go in July or not, you shouldn't avoid teaching hospitals, which often offer superior care. "When you are really sick, it's wonderful to be in an institution where there's an army of professionals 24/7," Conroy says.