Physician Burnout Leads to Medical Errors

Physician Burnout Leads to Medical Errors

Medical errors constitute one of the top 3 leading causes of death in the United States, with 100,000 – 200,000 fatalities each year. A recent study showed that your doctor’s mental health play an important role in the care you receive. In fact, if your doctor suffers “burnout” and/or depression, he or she may be more likely to make catastrophic medical errors.

The study was performed by researchers at Stanford University’s School of Medicine and anonymously evaluated thousands of doctors who were actively practicing. Roughly half of the physicians reported experiencing “burnout” – emotional exhaustion.

Further, a little over 10% of the doctors self-reported making a major medical error. 1 in 20 of these errors were fatal. Of the mistakes, the most frequently cited types were errors in judgment, then incorrect diagnoses and technical errors. Anesthesiologists, psychiatrists and pediatricians reportedly made the fewest, with radiologists, neurosurgeons and emergency room doctors made the most.

Alarmingly, although not surprising, doctors are more than twice as likely to make errors if they are “burnt out”, and roughly 38% more likely to make mistakes if they are experiencing fatigue. This statistic held up across hospitals and facilities with varying degrees of safety.

One of the study’s authors noted that a direct correlation exists between the level of burnout and the level of physician error - the more burnout, the greater the risk. Unfortunately, this becomes a vicious cycle, as causing mistakes leads to increased physician depression.

The researchers hope that by shining a light on all of the factors that contribute to the epidemic of medical mistakes and the catastrophic results that follow, efforts will be made to reduce physician burnout, and thereby improve patient safety.

For more information, or if you or a loved one have suffered harm due to a medical error or mistake, please contact the experienced California birth injury lawyers at Bostwick & Peterson, LLP for an immediate consultation.

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