Patients at Risk from Docs' Heavy Workload

Physicians' heavy workloads are nothing new in the health care industry, and are only expected to get worse; however, a new survey revealed that almost half of hospital doctors are seeing more patients than can be safely managed.

Physicians’ heavy workloads are nothing new in the health care industry, and are only expected to get worse with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. However, a new survey in JAMA Internal Medicine revealed that hospital physicians are reporting that they see more patients than can be safely managed.

Most errors causing thousands of patient deaths from preventable medical errors are usually caused by faulty systems, processes or conditions. However, the heavy workload expected of hospital physicians today is another possible cause — 40% said they saw an unsafe number of patients at least once a month.

“For resident physicians, workload so heavy as to result in physician fatigue is associated with increased medical errors and has led to the implementation of work-hour restrictions,” authors Henry J. Michtalik, MD, MPH, MHS; Hsin-Chieh Yeh, PhD; Peter J. Pronovost, MD, PhD; Daniel J. Brotman, MD, wrote.

The authors, researchers at Johns Hopkins University, surveyed hospital doctors about the impact of their workloads on patient care. According to the research letter, 7% of respondents admitted that a heavy workload likely led to patient complication and 5% reported it probably caused a death in the past year.

A quarter of the physicians who reported seeing an unsafe number of patients, said that the heavy workload prevented them from discussing treatment options or answering patient questions.

Of the physicians surveyed, the average age was 38 and the average salary was $180,000.

Read more:

Impact of Attending Physician Workload on Patient Care: A Survey of Hospitalists - JAMA