A recent study shows that physician burnout is real and serious enough that it may be source of more medical errors than unsafe workplace conditions.
The study, published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, shines a new light on medical malpractice in the United States. Dr. Christine Sinsky, the vice president of professional satisfaction at the American Medical Association and a researcher on the study, explained, “The study found that there’s two times the rate of perceived error when physicians are burned out. High burnout, even in an excellent safety environment, is nearly as risky as no burnout in a unit that had a poor safety grade.”
A national epidemic
The researchers sent surveys to physicians in active practice across the country from August 28, 2014 to October 6, 2014. Of the 6,695 who responded, 55 percent reported symptoms of burnout. Ten percent reported they had made at least one major medical error during the prior three months. The physicians also ranked the safety levels in the clinics and hospitals where they worked, using a standardized questionnaire.
Coauthor Daniel Tawfik said, “We found that physicians with burnout had more than twice the odds of self-reported medical error, after adjusting for specialty, work hours, fatigue and work unit safety rating. We also found that low safety grades in work units were associated with three to four times the odds of medical error.”
The study also showed that medical error rates tripled in medical units – even those ranked extremely safe – if physicians working on that unit had high levels of burnout. This illustrates that burnout could be an even bigger cause of medical error and malpractice than a poor safety environment, Tawfik said.
Multiple studies have indicated that doctor burnout is becoming a national epidemic, with around half of physicians experiencing feelings of exhaustion, cynicism, reduced effectiveness, and even suicidal ideations, according to the authors. Burnout can drastically affect quality of care, patient satisfaction, and, of course, patient safety.
Researchers in the study believe these issues with fatigue and burnout are caused more by systemic problems than individual ones. Common problems with the U.S. healthcare system include unmanageable workloads on top of administrative duties – problems that must be addressed.
Even what appears to be a small mistake by your doctor can result in serious injury. If you’ve suffered harm due to a doctor’s or other medical professional’s actions, the experienced malpractice attorneys at Crandall & Pera Law can help. Please call 877-686-8879, or fill out our contact form, and schedule your free consultation with an experienced lawyer at one of our offices in Ohio or Kentucky.