Hospital Mortality Rates Rise in July

July 13, 2011
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It has often been suspected that death rates in hospitals rise particularly in the summer when a new crop of medical residents start. Previous studies have been inconclusive. A new study lends validity to this theory.

It has often been suspected that death rates in hospitals rise particularly in the summer when a new crop of medical residents start. Previous studies have been inconclusive. A new study lends validity to this theory.

Two authors independently abstracted data on outcomes. 

  • Of the 39 included studies, 27 (69%) reported mortality. 
  • Thirteen (33%) were of higher quality. Studies with higher-quality designs and larger sample sizes more often showed increased mortality and decreased efficiency at time of changeover.
  • They found that mortality rates did increase between 8 and 24 percent in July, according to a Time blog post.
Researchers concluded that mortality increases and efficiency decreases in hospitals because of year-end changeovers, although there are no firm conclusions about the degree of risk posed.

According to study coauthor John Q. Young, MD, MPP, associate program director, residency training program at the Department of Psychiatry at University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, in a press release: “The ‘July Effect’ occurs when these experienced physicians are replaced by new trainees who have little clinical experience, may be inadequately supervised in their new roles, and do not yet have a working knowledge of the hospital system. It’s a perfect storm.”

Researchers do not recommend that patients avoid care when they need it, even during July.