Physician Burnout Tied to Higher Risk of Medical Errors

Risk for burnout lower in clinics with social worker, pharmacist on care team.
Physicians reporting errors were more likely to also report burnout, fatigue, recent suicidal ideation

(HealthDay News) — Physician burnout, fatigue, and work-unit safety grades are independently associated with medical errors, according to a study published online July 9 in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Daniel S. Tawfik, M.D., from Stanford University in California, and colleagues conducted a population-based survey of 6,695 U.S. physicians in active practice to evaluate burnout, fatigue, suicidal ideation, work-unit safety grade, and recent medical errors.

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The researchers found that 55 percent of respondents reported symptoms of burnout, 33 percent reported excessive fatigue, and 6.5 percent reported recent suicidal ideation. In addition, 3.9 percent reported a poor or failing patient safety grade in their primary work area and 11 percent reported a major medical error in the prior three months. Physicians reporting errors were more likely to also report symptoms of burnout (78 versus 52 percent), fatigue (47 versus 31 percent), and recent suicidal ideation (13 versus 6 percent). After adjustment for demographic and clinical characteristics, errors were independently more likely to be reported by physicians with burnout (odds ratio [OR], 2.2), fatigue (OR, 1.4), and incrementally worse work-unit safety grades (OR, 1.7 for B grade, 1.9 for C, 3.1 for D, and 4.4 for F).

“Interventions to reduce rates of medical errors must address both physician well-being and work-unit safety,” the authors write.

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