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Is Physician Burnout Causing Medical Errors?

Posted on April 1, 2019 by Duffy + Fulginiti

Unsafe conditions have been cited as a reason for medical errors in the past. Now, a new study by Stanford University reveals that physician burnout, which has not been widely studied to date, can double or even triple errors, even in safe environments.

Study researchers surveyed 6,695 physicians in active practice. Of the respondents, 55 percent reported symptoms of burnout, explained in the article as “exhaustion, cynicism, and feelings of reduced effectiveness.” Researchers took into account work hours, fatigue and the safety rating for the work environment, to adjust for those factors. Results showed that physicians were at least twice as likely to make a medical error if they were experiencing burnout.

“The study also showed that rates of medical errors actually tripled in medical work units, even those ranked as extremely safe, if physicians working on that unit had high levels of burnout. This indicates that burnout may be an even a bigger cause of medical error than a poor safety environment,” reported the article.

The study was published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Researchers concluded that improved workplace safety and systems alone are not effective at controlling medical errors. Physician burnout also has to be addressed.

Medical errors continue to be a national challenge. It’s estimated that errors contribute to 100,000 to 200,000 deaths annually, according to the article.

If you suspect that you or a loved one is a victim of medical malpractice by a Philadelphia hospital or doctor, contact us to discuss your legal options.