Study: Physician burnout increases the risk of medical errors

Recent studies have shown that close to half of physicians are burnt out and likelier to make medical errors.

The issue of burnout in the medical profession has been getting a lot of attention lately. As the Washington Post reports, two studies focused on the problem were recently published in JAMA, the journal for the American Medical Association. The studies have found that burnout, especially among physicians, is at alarmingly high rates. Furthermore, previous studies have shown that medical errors are far more common for doctors who say they feel burnt out.

The risks of burnout among physicians

As ABC News reports, a study published earlier this year in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that physician burnout played a big role in medical errors. That study surveyed more than 6,600 physicians across the country about their emotional and mental health along with their history of medical errors.

About 10 percent of physicians said they had committed a major medical error in the past three months and about 1 out of every 20 major medical errors resulted in a patient fatality. However, physicians who reported feeling burnt out had a major medical error rate that was twice as high as the general physician population. Those who suffered from signs of fatigue, meanwhile, were 38 percent more likely to make a major medical mistake.

How extensive is burnout?

Given that the survey was self-reported, it is fair to assume that the role that burnout plays in medical errors is likely much greater than even the above study suggests. Another issue with assessing how grave of a risk physician burnout presents is first determining how prevalent burnout actually is among physicians.

More recent studies suggest the rates of burnout are alarmingly high in the medical profession. As the Washington Post reports, close to half of all young doctors in residencies say they feel burnt out at least one day a week. Among other U.S. workers, only 30 percent say they feel burnt out one day every week. That large population of mentally exhausted physicians are more likely to say they regret their career choice and are far more likely to make a major mistake in their practice. As a result, patients end up being placed in harm's way because of doctors being pushed to their limits, often by hospital management or insurance companies.

Medical malpractice law

Anybody who has been harmed by potential medical negligence needs to get in touch with a medical malpractice attorney as soon as they can. Medical malpractice cases are notoriously complex and typically involve extremely complicated liability issues. An experienced attorney can help injured patients understand what their options are and assist them with pursuing any compensation they may be entitled to.