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Study: Physician burnout is leading to major medical errors

A recent study says that burnout among physicians is widespread and it is leading to medical errors.

Working in the medical field can be a high-stress job and when that stress causes doctors to make mistakes then patients are the ones put at risk. As Becker's Hospital Review recently reported, a new study suggests that the stress of the job may be causing many physicians to be making major mistakes. The study found that doctors who reported suffering from burnout were twice as likely to report making a medical mistake and that hospital units that had doctors suffering from burnout had triple the rates of medical errors.

Burnout is common among physicians

The researchers the Stanford University School of Medicine surveyed 6,000 physicians at hospitals across the country and asked them both about whether they were suffering from burnout and whether they had made medical errors in the past. The doctors were also asked to comment on the safety of the hospitals at which they worked.

Disturbingly, as ABC News reports, 55 percent of physicians reported suffering from burnout, 33 percent from high levels of fatigue, and 6.5 percent from suicidal thoughts. The survey found that doctors suffering from burnout were twice as likely to make a medical error, while those suffering from fatigue were 38 percent more likely to commit an error.

Workplace safety makes little difference

The survey found that the rates of medical errors caused by burnout were the same regardless of whether they happened at hospitals that were rated as highly safe or otherwise. Medical work units saw their medical error rates triple if a physician in that unit reported suffering from burnout, even if the unit was located in a hospital with high safety ratings.

Much of the problem stems from aspects of the healthcare system that are unique to the U.S. Inefficiencies caused by electronic health records and documentation requirements imposed by CMS mean that for every hour a physician spends with a patient, they spend two hours at desk work. Physicians are also expected to handle individual tasks that would often be better handled by team-based care. While some hospitals have instituted wellness programs for doctors, critiques say these are Band-Aid solutions that do not address the larger issues that are causing such widespread levels of burnout among doctors.

Medical malpractice law

Burnout puts patients at serious risk and anybody who has been the victim of a possible medical error should contact a medical malpractice attorney for help today. Medical malpractice claims are notoriously complex, but an experienced attorney will be able to guide clients through the claims process and help them understand their rights and options.