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Dangerously Overworked: How Busy Is Your Doctor?

Like any other job, heavy workloads make it much easier for doctors to make serious mistakes. A recent survey asked doctors about what they see happening when hospitals pack too many inpatient treatment responsibilities into their shifts. The results highlight far too many opportunities for dangerous mistakes.

This survey contacted more than 500 physicians who work primarily in hospital wards. These doctors responded to a variety of questions that focused on characteristics of their professional expectations, hospital practices and patient loads. More than a third of the respondents said that patient loads exceeded safe levels at least one every week. With so many patients and so little time, the doctors indicated that understaffing had a serious impact on safety.

At a high level, a quarter of the respondents said that overwork "likely contributed" to negative outcomes, including more frequent cases of diseases and an increased need to transfer patients for more intense care. Doctors said that fatal mistakes also became more likely.

The survey revealed some other concerning findings. One in ten of the doctors said that he or she failed to respond to important lab results because of overwork. Around a quarter of respondents also said that unreasonable care expectations caused them to order unnecessary tests and procedures - simply because they did not have enough time to do face-to-face assessments with every patient.

This is just one more indicator that prevailing practices in the healthcare industry create an environment in which dangerous medical errors are all too common. Ohio patients should and do expect more from their healthcare providers.

Source: MedPage Today, "Patients Suffer if Hospitalists Overworked," Cole Petrochko, Jan. 28, 2013

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