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Medical mistakes more prevalent in July? Study mostly busts myth

The old saw that the worst time to be sick in a hospital is in July, when new doctors are released into the wards, turns out to be only partly true. According to a new study, medical malpractice or other mistakes only impact the sickest patients the most negatively if they are treated at a teaching hospital in July than in any other month. The head researcher said that people who are the most at risk of dying in a hospital already are the ones most likely to feel any effect from physician experience.

A doctor with the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics wrote an editorial that appeared in a health journal alongside the study's findings, which said that, except for that small group of very ill patients, being hospitalized in July is not something anyone needs to worry about. The research used records from heart attack patients hospitalized in May or July from 2002 to 2008. Included in the study was information regarding 19,054 high-risk patients and 57,163 patients considered to be at a low risk based on their gender, age and other health conditions.

The study looked at patients admitted to 98 U.S. hospitals focused on teaching new doctors as well as 1,353 hospitals that did not train novice physicians. The researchers said that this kind of comparison was new to their study and had not been performed in earlier reports.

Chicago is home to one of the biggest teaching hospitals in the country. However, a medical error can come in many forms, from doctor negligence in failure to treat infections to surgeons operating with a lack of information. A lawsuit may be appropriate in cases where a person's ailment or injury could be attributed medical malpractice.

Source: NY Daily News, "'July effect' true for only sickest heart attack patients: study", November 08, 2013

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Q: What is medical malpractice?

A: Medical malpractice is negligence committed by a professional health care provider, such as a doctor, nurse, dentist, technician, hospital worker or hospital, whose treatment of a patient departs from a standard of care met by those with similar training and experience, resulting in harm to a patient...

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