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New limits on physician training hours could prove costly for US teaching hospitals
Date:9/8/2011

The new limits on hours that physicians-in-training can work will prove costly for U.S teaching hospitals, which will need to spend up to $1.3 billion a year, and possibly more, to effect the changes, a new UCLA study suggests.

On July 1, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), the national body charged with overseeing the training of junior doctors as they complete their specialty training, put into effect strict duty-hour limits on interns and medical residents and instituted related changes to the training environment.

These reforms are intended to reduce medical errors by physicians-in-training at teaching hospitals that result from fatigue due to long work hours, though the changes do not assure a reduction in error rates.

The new UCLA study, published online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, estimates that teaching hospitals nationwide will have to spend an aggregate $400 million to $1.3 billion each year to carry out the new hour limits and related changes. But some hospitals might have trouble coming up with the money to do it.

"Given the effort and money that teaching hospitals are investing in implementing these new duty-hour limits, many people hope that these changes will reduce the numbers of patients being harmed by medical errors, as well as the number of residents falling asleep at the wheel after long hours on duty," said lead study author Dr. Teryl Nuckols, an associate professor of medicine in the division of general internal medicine and health services research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "Our analysis shows that if the reforms are successful, they are likely to be a good value for the money from the societal perspective."

"However, some teaching hospitals may struggle with the cost of implementing the reforms because there is no funding for doing so," she added.

Under the new guidelines, first-year residents, also known
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Contact: Enrique Rivero
erivero@mednet.ucla.edu
310-794-2273
University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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