Doctor Work Overload May Impact Patient Care

ticker.jpgA new survey has some very distressing findings indicating that many doctors find themselves overloaded with work, and are therefore, much more prone to making errors and comprising patient safety. About 7% of the doctors admitted that their heavy work schedules have resulted in a patient complication, while 5% admitted that their work schedules have led to the death of a patient in the last year.

The survey was conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, and almost 50% of the hospital doctors in the survey said that they routinely see more patients than they can possibly handle safely. In fact, one out of every 20 doctors in the survey admitted that heavy workload was linked to a patient fatality in the last year alone. One out of every 5 doctors admitted that their hectic work schedules and high patient numbers impacted patient safety. Four out of every 10 doctors admitted that they were overworked.

The survey included 500 hospital doctors, and 20% said that their schedules were so hectic and so tightly packed, that they had little time available for proper patient discussions. Inadequate patient discussions mean that doctors are also much less likely to be able to diagnose the illness without ordering unnecessary and expensive tests. There was overall an increase in medical errors, and compromised patient safety due to this high workload.

Doctor schedules have not been featured much in the debate over patient safety and health care costs; however, the survey clearly indicates that we must be concerned about doctor stress and fatigue. The Johns Hopkins University researchers believe that a doctor seeing more than 15 patients in a single shift can be considered an unsafe schedule with a higher risk for medical errors. In fact, approximately 40% of the doctors admitted that they frequently saw more than 15 patients in a single shift over the last year.

Indiana medical malpractice attorneys only expect this problem to get worse. As a result of the health care reforms, many doctors are expecting cuts in payments from health insurers, and many hospitals are also tying performance with compensation. This means that doctors are now likely to feel under pressure to work much more than necessary and see more patients in order to boost their income levels. That means compromised patient care.

Hospitals must realize that when they put their doctors under so much pressure, they’re only opening themselves up to the risk of medical errors, patient injuries and consequently, a medical malpractice lawsuit. These heavy work schedules are therefore only counterproductive, and only increase financial risk to these facilities and the doctors involved.

The Indiana medical malpractice attorneys at Montross Miller Muller Mendelson Kennedy LLP represent victims of medical negligence across Indiana. If you have suffered injuries due to an emergency room error, diagnostic error, or surgical error, consult an experienced medical malpractice attorney at our firm.