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Physician 'Burnout' Has Led To Over 100,000 Deaths Due To Medical Errors, New Study Suggest

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A new study has found that doctors who feel mentally fatigued, depressed, or burnt-out could cause medical errors. These medical errors have led 100,000 to 200,000 deaths per year.

Doctors Need A Break

Burnout is described as an emotional exhaustion or depersonalization. According to researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine, more than half of 6,695 physicians who responded a survey feel this way.

Researchers from the study examined physicians across the country to better understand the relationship between burnout and severe medical errors. The doctors were asked to grade the safety of their workplace and note any medical errors that they may have made.

Over 10 percent of the doctors who participated claimed to have made a major medical error three months prior to the survey. Of those medical errors, 1 out of 20 was fatal. About 55 percent of doctors claimed they have the symptoms of a burnout, 33 percent claimed they had had high levels of fatigue, and 6.5 percent claimed to have thoughts of suicide.

"When a physician is experiencing burnout, a wide range of adverse events may occur. In our study, the most common errors were errors in medical judgment, errors in diagnosing illness, and technical mistakes during procedures," lead author of the study, Dr. Daniel Tawfik, stated.

Suicide Among Medical Professionals

The study also found that medical errors are more than twice as likely to occur when a physician has signs of a burnout and 38 percent more likely to happen if the doctor is fatigued. Doctors who committed medical errors are more than twice as likely to have thoughts of suicide in the past year. The study has found that these medical errors can lead to a doctor developing depressive thoughts.

Dr. Jonathan Ripp, the senior associate dean for the Well-Being and Resilience at Mount Sinai Hospital, stated that the major problem is the complexity of the healthcare system. Dr. Ripp continued that for every hour a doctor spends with a patient, they spend two hours filling out the paperwork. Ripp also stated that even though hospitals have physician wellness programs, they only act as a "band-aid" because there are more that needs to be done.

The researchers of the study are hoping that this new information will help solve this epidemic. The study was published in the journal, Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

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