Right around this time last year, we warned our readers about the “July
Effect.” The term refers to the 10% spike in fatalities at teaching
hospitals during the month of July. Researchers speculate that the rise in
medical errors is likely associated with the influx of new doctors who begin residencies in July.
In many cases, the errors, such as medication mistakes, are easily preventable.
Therefore, we suggest that all patients keep these tips in mind if they
find themselves in a San Diego hospital this summer.
Check out your doctor and hospital. In addition to verifying your doctor’s credentials, you should
inquire about his or her experience in treating your specific condition.
The more often a doctor has performed a procedure, the more familiar she
is with its variations and complications and the higher her success rate
is likely to be. You should also find out how the hospital’s infection
rates compare to other area hospitals.
Understand scheduling matters. Try to avoid surgery on weekends, nights, and holidays when hospitals
may be short-staffed and workers may be fatigued. Stroke patients treated
in hospitals on Saturday and Sunday were 16% more likely to die than those
treated on weekdays, according to a recent study from the University of Toronto.
Find out if the hospital uses electronic records. Medication orders are often a source of error. If possible, use a hospital
with electronic records, which can reduce prescription mistakes sevenfold,
according to a recent Weill Cornell Medical College study.
Bring your actual prescription bottles with you. Doctors suggest you bring your actual prescriptions to the hospital–don’t
just write down the names. “You cut chances of blunders such as
missed doses and interactions when the staff sees what you’re taking,”
says Tanya Froelich, MD, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati
Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Be aware of shift changes. The chance of medical error rises dramatically during shift changes,
says Arthur Aaron Levin, MPH, director of the Center for Medical Consumers.
Before your current nurse leaves, request time to review your chart and
what treatment you’re supposed to get next. And meet with your new
nurse, too, to ask any questions you have, advises Caitlin Brennan, RN,
PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at Case Western Reserve University Frances
Payne Bolton School of Nursing.
Ask for help from friends and family. When you’re a patient in the hospital, you’re likely to be
worried, stressed out, and under sedation at times, so it’s helpful
to have friends and family with you to act as your advocates. By acting
as extra eyes and ears for you, this team can keep track of your treatment
and may prevent errors that would otherwise go unnoticed.
If you or someone you love has suffered from a
medical error, don’t hesitate to
contact a San Diego medical malpractice attorney
at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.