While it’s true that health emergencies do not follow any sort of set schedule, there are certain times when you might face inefficient or negligent care from a hospital. Thousands of people across the nation avoid scheduling surgeries or complex procedures during the summer months due to conventional wisdom collectively referred to as “The July Effect.”

Largely a product of poor timing, the effect was recently described in Time thusly: “The most experienced medical residents graduate and leave hospitals in July, just as newly minted M.D.s (i.e., last year’s medical students) arrive to start caring for their first patients.” While many people might immediately dismiss this as spurious logic or perhaps an old wives’ tale, a recent study looked specifically at The July Effect.

Dr. John Young of the University of California, San Francisco, published data in the Annals of Internal Medicine. His research team took a comprehensive look at death rates and complications occurring in hospitals throughout the year. For teaching hospitals – hospitals responsible for training new doctors – Dr. Young found there was a clear relationship between the month of July and the increase of patient death. Additionally, there was a significant decrease of patient care efficiency.

The team reviewed data from 39 previous studies that tracked serious health outcomes. They noted that in July, death rates increased, depending on the study, from 8 percent to 34 percent. While this is a rather large range, even an 8 percent increase in death rates is significant. Dr. Young’s analysis controlled for factors that might have impacted the health outcomes of the various studies, including how sick a patient population was at the beginning of the study.

The theories surrounding The July Effect are various, but can share numerous elements, including:

  • The most experienced residents graduate.
  • There’s an influx of new residents who aren’t up to speed with the current patient load.
  • The new residents haven’t logged many clinic hours and lack “real world” experience.
  • Hospitals can be impacted by short-staffing due to summer vacations.

Teaching hospitals perform a necessary function in providing the care and attention that patients need. Many hospitals have worked to combat this effect by providing detailed orientation sessions to new residents, or ensuring their most experienced physicians are on call during the summer months.

If you or a loved one experienced an injury, worsening condition or surgical error it is wise to discuss your situation with a skilled medical malpractice attorney who can explain your legal options and provide the guidance you need.