Burned Out Doctors Endanger their Patients

With more doctors putting in long hours, the profession now carries one of the highest risks of burnout. According to the AMA, physicians suffer from “burnout” roughly twice the rate for the general population. The blame, according to doctors, lies in the corporatization of healthcare which has rapidly accelerated over the last decade. Doctors say that corporate healthcare chains squeeze as many patients as possible onto each doctor attempting to maximize their revenue. This leaves doctors without adequate time to diagnose a patient, record their medical information, and deal with their health insurance companies. In a New York Times article, the author states that doctors work nights and weekends to adequately care for all their patients at “a high personal cost.”

Regulations also eat up an unnecessary amount of time, according to doctors. The E.M.R. or Electronic Medical Record appears especially burdensome. Data shows that primary care physicians are now spending two hours typing into the E.M.R. for each hour spent with their patients. The time spent on the E.M.R. does not even include the compliance workshops and continued medical education required of all doctors.

Unsurprisingly, this high level of doctor burnout is proving dangerous to patients. According to one study, who score higher on “professional fatigue” are more likely to commit a medical error or otherwise compromise their patient’s safety. Most worrisome, burnout rates are highest among medical professionals with the most patient interaction. This reduces the likelihood that a medical error or mistake would be caught before a patient is harmed.

In the New York Times article, the author recommends a wholesale “restructuring” of patient care. Between 1975 and 2019, the number of healthcare administrators skyrocketed by roughly 3,200 percent. In the healthcare system, administrators outnumber doctors 10 to 1. Diverting those administrators or slashing their positions and spending that money on hiring doctors and nurses would reduce the workload on doctors and prevent doctor burnout. Given the unsustainable trajectory, healthcare facilities should stop endangering their patients by overworking doctors sooner rather than later.

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