beware teaching hospitals in july medication errors follow up

In early June, we covered the topic of medication errors and, more specifically, the anomaly known as the “July effect.” The phrase refers to the abnormally high number of medication errors that consistently take place during this month. A recent dive into the so-called “July effect” by researchers at the University of California, San Diego encompassed more than 60 million deaths between 1979 and 2006.

Researchers found that 244,338 of these deaths were due to medication error.

While the rate of death by medication error proved to be relatively flat throughout most of the year, they discovered a significant spike in July. This spike appeared year after year, a 10 percent increase bracketed by stability.

The key seemed to be medical school graduates, fresh out of the classroom and in the hospital for the first extended amount of time, able to make life and death decisions. This 10 percent jump showed up almost exclusively in counties where teaching hospitals were located.

Teaching hospitals are situated in cities across the country. In Pittsburgh, alone, there are nearly a 10. In Philadelphia there are closer to 15 teaching hospitals. It’s at these hospitals where brand new medical residents first cut their teeth in the day-to-day management of patients and treatments.

In Pittsburgh, the teaching hospitals include:

  • Allegheny General Hospital
  • University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
  • VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System
  • West Penn Allegheny Healthcare System
  • The Western Pennsylvania Hospital
  • Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic

This is not to say that you should avoid any and all medical treatment at the listed hospitals, simply that you should be aware. If you have loved ones in the hospital over the summer, do your best to understand their treatment and what they are being treated for.

You aren’t expected to play doctor, but sometimes a little extra awareness, or a simple question, can highlight missed deficiencies.

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