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Mayo Clinic study on “July Effect,” alleged link to patient harm

On Behalf of | Feb 19, 2013 | Surgical Errors

A new study is debunking the widely held notion that patients can face a seasonal increased risk of hospital malpractice due to factors operative within what is known as the “July Effect.” These supposed risk factors are attributed to the new wave of inexperienced medical residents that start their terms at hospitals during the summer, most commonly during July.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic disagree with that perspective, though, at least as it relates to spine surgeries. They state that in those instances, there is no increase in surgical errors or other health complications in July as compared to other months throughout the year. Although there is a slight increase in the number of infections experienced after a surgery, study findings indicate that the uptick is not significant enough to suggest a relation to the July Effect.

The study focuses on nearly one million hospitalizations for spine surgeries that occurred between 2001 and 2008 in facilities across the country. Researchers hope that their findings will ease patient fears that having s surgical procedure done at a particular time of the year could put them at a comparatively higher risk of complications.

It is worth noting, though, that the Mayo Clinic study contradicts an earlier review suggesting that patient deaths can increase up to 34 percent in July. Yet another study from 2010 found that hospital fatalities peaked in July, with death rates being more pronounced in teaching hospitals. That study’s sample size was much smaller than the most recent research, though.

Source: Huffington Post, “‘July Effect in hospitals is a myth, Mayo Clinic study finds — at least when it comes to spine surgery,” Jan. 30, 2013

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