Medical errors may stem more from physician burnout than unsafe settings


  • Dawn O'Shea
  • International Medical News
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Physician burnout is responsible for as many medical errors as unsafe medical workplace conditions, according to a study led by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine.

The population-based study surveyed 6,695 practising US doctors from 28 August 2014 to 6 October 2014. Of the 6,586 who provided information on the areas of interest, 54.3 per cent reported symptoms of burnout. Almost a third (32.8%) reported excessive fatigue and 6.5 per cent reported recent suicidal ideation.

More than 10 per cent reported a major medical error in the previous three months. Physicians reporting errors were more likely to have symptoms of burnout (77.6% vs 51.5%; P<.001 fatigue vs p and recent suicidal ideation in multivariate modelling errors were more likely to be reported by physicians with burnout ratio ci or>

"Up until just recently, the prevailing thought was that if medical errors are occurring, you need to fix the workplace safety with things like checklists and better teamwork," said lead author Daniel Tawfik. "This study shows that that is probably insufficient. We need a two-pronged approach to reduce medical errors that also addresses physician burnout."