Fatal Medication Errors Rise in July at Teaching Hospitals

Researchers say arrival of new medical residents at least partly explains the increase
By Beth Gilbert
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, June 8 (HealthDay News) -- In July there is a significant increase in fatal medication errors at medical institutions, and this spike is at least partly due to the arrival of new medical residents, according to a study published online May 29 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

David P. Phillips, Ph.D., of the University of California at San Diego in La Jolla, and Gwendolyn E.C. Barker, of the University of California at Los Angeles, examined 62,338,584 U.S. death certificates from 1979 to 2006, and looked at 244,388 medication errors to compare the observed number of deaths in July with the number expected, both inside and outside medical institutions, as well as in counties with and without teaching hospitals.

The researchers found that fatal medication errors spiked in July by 10 percent -- but in no other month -- inside medical institutions in counties with teaching hospitals. The higher the concentration of teaching hospitals in an area, the greater the rise in fatal medication errors occurring in July. However, in counties without teaching hospitals, no spike in fatal medication errors occurred during the month.

"After assessing competing explanations, we concluded that the July mortality spike results at least partly from changes associated with the arrival of new medical residents," the authors write.

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