Has Physician Burnout Become a Patient Safety Threat?

Can physician burnout put you at risk for a medical mistake?Doctors have one of the most difficult jobs in the world, and comes with a great amount of responsibility. The requirements of this job might be causing an epidemic of physician burnout in hospitals.

According to a Mayo Clinic survey, 54 percent of doctors report feeling burnt out. This study claims factors like long hours, electronic health record requirements (EHR) and life-work conflicts are to blame. Respondents to the survey claimed they spent more than half their time dealing with EHR requirements, a major cause of burnout among physicians.

In a strange twist of irony, the very policies and technologies we need to coordinate patient care may be also putting patients at risk.

3 Ways Physician Burnout in Hospitals Affects Patient Care and Safety

Doctors feeling burn out can negatively affect patient care in the following ways.

  1. Patient satisfaction: Studies show patients of burnt out doctors are less likely to show up to appointments. They are also less likely to adhere to treatments for conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.
  2. Medical errors: Research published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings discovered doctors experienced higher rates of burnout when they believed they had made medical mistakes. In the three months after these doctors believed they had made errors, the risk of making real medical mistakes Doctors feeling burnout also sleep less, which raised the risk of making mistakes.
  3. Empathy: Doctors experiencing burnout spend less time with their patients. They are less involved with the care of patients, and are less likely to think deeply about their care. This may lead to a misdiagnosis or other safety problems associated with patient care.

The next time you go to the doctor’s office, it may be a good idea to cheer up your doctor. They may be one of the 54 percent unhappy with working in medicine. Despite how doctor’s feel about their jobs, there is still a legal expectation for them to provide treatment within the accepted standard of care.


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