According to the Institute of Medicine, medical errors contribute to an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 deaths per year. A new study conducted by Stanford University School of Medicine shows that physician burnout, fatigue, and depression can potentially lead to major medical errors, including errors in judgment, incorrect diagnoses, and technical errors.
The study surveyed more than 6,600 physicians in active practice who filled out standardized questionnaires on their levels of burnout (defined as emotional exhaustion or depersonalization), well-being, fatigue, and experiences of depression. The doctors were also asked to grade the safety of their workplaces and comment on any major medical mistakes they may have made during their careers.
Disturbingly, 55% of physicians reported symptoms of burnout, 33% had high levels of fatigue, and 6.5% had thoughts of suicide in the last year. According to the study, doctors have 3 to 5 times the suicide rate of the general public. If a physician has signs of burnout, they are more than twice as likely to make a medical mistake and 38% more likely if there are any signs of fatigue.
Radiologists, neurosurgeons and emergency room doctors were reported to have made the greatest number of medical errors. At the other end of the spectrum, pediatrics, psychiatrists and anesthesiologists had the fewest.
Preventable medical errors kill more Americans than diabetes, influenza and Alzheimer’s combined. A 2016 study noted that if tracked separately, medical errors would be the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind only cancer and heart disease. In the case of a patient’s death due to the negligence or medical malpractice, surviving family members may file a wrongful death lawsuit against the healthcare provider.
“Largely, the great part of this problem has to do with the complexity of the U.S. healthcare system,” Dr. Jonathan Ripp, senior associate dean for Well-Being and Resilience at Mount Sinai Hospital and chief wellness officer of the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, told ABC News.
“For every one hour a clinician spends with a patient,” he noted, “they spend two hours with documentation or desk work,” which adds to the doctors’ stress levels.
“We need to manage expectations, and this takes time,” Dr. Ripp said. “By making system and individual level changes, the result should be greater meaning derived from work and less burnout.”
Medical Negligence Law & The Rights of Injured Patients
The law of most states provides persons who have been seriously injured as the result of the negligence of another with several legal claims. The injured person may file a lawsuit seeking compensation for his or her pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost past and future wages and punitive damages.
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