NEJM Publishes New Study on Work Hours
American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
The Baltimore Sun and the Wall Street Journal reported on the New England Journal of Medicine publication of a study and a related editorial finding that implementing the reductions recommended in the Institute of Medicine report on the number of hours medical residents work could cost as much as $2.5 billion annually, despite a lack of proof that such reductions would improve patient care. The new study weighed post-2003 literature on resident work hours and patient harm against additional labor costs, and concluded that the IOM recommendations "would be costly, and their effectiveness is unknown." The Sun article notes that the lead author of the study, Teryl Nuckols, MD, said that teaching hospitals would most likely need to hire more residents and experienced physicians to take care of patients, which would likely cost each teaching hospital $3.2 million annually. The Journal reports that the ACGME has called for more research before it decides whether to adopt the IOM recommendations and that their decision will be announced next February. Subscribers to the NEJM may see the study and the editorial online.