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Why you should avoid the hospital in the summer

The summer is quickly approaching. Time to hit the beach, take your boat out on the lake or pull your bike out of hibernation. Whatever your plans, it’s especially important to take any measures you can to keep yourself safe and healthy this summer.

Of course, it’s not possible to avoid every illness or injury, but you would be well advised to avoid a hospital stay at this time of year, if possible. Why? Medical mistakes spike in the summer months, which can lead to unnecessary complications—or even death.

What’s worse about the summer?

Turnover in hospitals reaches an all-time high in the summer. The most experienced medical residents graduate, and they’re replaced by a new class of freshman doctors-in-training. For these new residents, it’s their first time being in charge of patient care, and they must learn the ropes of the hospital quickly.

Across the board, this transitional period leads to more problems for patients. Dr. John Q. Young recently published a report in which he compiled and analyzed data from 39 previous studies on hospital care during the summer. Those studies show that patient death rates in July increase by anywhere from 8 to 34 percent.

In addition, these new medical trainees make a higher rate of other costly mistakes. They are more prone to mis-prescribing medication dosages. They’re more likely to order unnecessary or duplicative tests. They encounter more complications during surgery. Such residents also tend to treat their patients less efficiently—resulting in more prolonged procedures, longer hospital stays and increased hospital charges.

According to Dr. Young, the abrupt changeover can throw a wrench in the entire hospital’s functioning. Dr. Young likens the summer phenomenon to a high-stakes football game: “[I]n the middle of that final drive, you bring out four or five players who never played in the pros before and don’t know the playbook, and the players that remained get changed to positions they never played before, and they never practiced together.”

No one looks forward to having a medical procedure. But if it’s necessary, you want your hospital to run like a well-oiled machine. To increase your chances of quality care, it could pay to schedule your surgery around the summer.

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