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  • The “July Effect”

    By Debra A. Jensen, Esquire

    Recently, MSNBC hosted a surprising and alarming segment that highlighted statistics and mistakes that are occurring in our hospitals.  Medical mistakes account for as many as 98,000 deaths each year in the United States. Many may not realize that being in a hospital in the month of July can increase your risk of suffering a fatality at the hands of a medical provider.

    Within our healthcare system, there is a phenomenon known as the July Effect. It starts on July 1 of each year and continues for the month.  This is the time when doctors who have just graduated from medical school start their new roles as hospital medical residents. These residents now take on the responsibility of providing care to patients.  As with any professional starting a new job, there is a learning curve with mistakes made along the way.  The July Effect impacts roughly 100,000 medical staff in teaching hospitals across the country and the death rates at these teaching hospitals spike by during the month of July.  The Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at Galfand Berger urge the public to be wary of scheduling any procedures or surgeries during July.

    Study Reveals Increase in Hospital Fatalities during the Month of July

    A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of California at San Diego and published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine looked at more than 62 million death certificates in the United States from 1979 to 2006.  It was determined that there were 244, 388 deaths caused by medication errors.  The statistics revealed that medication errors increased by 10 percent in the month of July in counties that had a high quantity of teaching hospitals.  The number of errors was unchanged in those areas with no teaching hospitals.

    Compounding the impact of the July Effect on the likelihood of medical malpractice, it appears that treatment at night or on the weekends or holidays may increase your risk of injury at the hands of your healthcare provider.  Another study conducted at the University of Toronto showed that nights, weekends, and holidays are not the ideal time to undergo any procedures.  For example, the study revealed that stroke patients receiving care on a Saturday or Sunday were found to have a 16 percent increase of dying compared to those treated during the week.

    Be Your Own Health Advocate

    Galfand Berger encourages individuals to be their own advocates when it comes to their health, especially in the summer months.  One of the most important ways you can help to prevent an injury or illness from a medical error is to be involved in your care every step of the way.  Review these following recommendations before scheduling any procedures this summer.

    *Before having any medical procedure or surgical operation, find out how much experience the physician, surgeon or anesthesiologist has in performing the procedure.  It is also important to make sure that a doctor is board certified in their specific specialty.  As per the research stated above, when scheduling your procedure with your doctor, avoid Fridays and weekends due to lighter staffing and physicians being on-call from home.

    *Schedule your care at a facility that uses electronic records as opposed to handwritten records to decrease the likelihood that you would be a victim of a prescription or medication error.

    *When checking into a hospital, take your medication bottles with you.  This will ensure that the hospital staff knows exactly what medications and doses you are taking and how often.  This will also help decrease your chances of a medication mistake.  Make sure your report any allergies to the staff to avoid any allergic reactions.  When receiving any medications in the hospital, be sure to clarify what medication and dose you are receiving and what its intended purpose is.

    *As part of your pre-operative or pre-procedure screening, request to be screened for the risk of developing a blood clot.  A blood clot or deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can be deadly if the clot travels through the bloodstream to the lungs.  There are preventative measures that can be utilized such as compression stockings and the blood thinning medication heparin to decrease your risk of death.

    *Be advised of the exact surgery that you are scheduled for.  Many hospitals and surgical facilities have adopted a time-out procedure that is supposed to take place prior to the start of any procedure.  Often times, prior to the procedure, while the patient is still awake and directly involved, an operative site will be marked with a marker to decrease the chance of a surgical error.  Just before a procedure is started, the correct patient needs to be identified as well as the correct procedure and correct site.

    *Decrease your likelihood of developing a deadly hospital-acquired infection. Thousands of patients are killed each year from infections that they acquire while hospitalized.  If possible, obtain the hospital’s data on infection rates.  Knowing this information can help you avoid some of the potential risk factors.  Make sure that any healthcare providers as well as visitors that enter your room wash their hands.  Hand washing is an important way to prevent the spread of infections and plays a significant role in reducing your chances of getting a hospital-acquired infection.  In addition, make sure your room is being disinfected on a regular basis and that medical instruments such as stethoscopes are cleaned between patients and users.

    *Bring a friend or family member to the hospital with you.  Being admitted to the hospital and undergoing any medical procedure can be stressful and overwhelming.  Often times, patients are so consumed with worry that they forget to ask the right questions or are not fully focused when a medical professional is talking to them.  Having someone else present can be helpful with asking appropriate questions and step in as your advocate by looking out for your best interest.

    Our Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Attorneys are Here to Help

    The Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys at the renowned law firm of Galfand Berger have represented numerous clients who have suffered devastating injuries and death as a result of a healthcare professionals malpractice, including surgical errors and medication errors.  Medical malpractice lawsuits can often be complex and difficult to pursue.  Our team of highly skilled and experienced medical malpractice lawyers have the resources, both professional and financial, to pursue a malpractice lawsuit to the fullest extent, with the ultimate goal of maximizing our clients’ recovery.

    If you or someone you love has suffered personal injuries from a hospital error, surgical error, medication error, or any other injury suffered as a result of a healthcare provider’s negligence, contact the medical malpractice attorneys at Galfand Berger.  With offices in Philadelphia, Reading, and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, our lawyers are available to meet with clients throughout Pennsylvania, including Allentown, Harrisburg, and Reading, as well as South Jersey. Call today to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 1-800-222-8792 or submit a free online inquiry.

    1-800-222-USWA (8792)