Physician Mental Health Can Affect Patient Care

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Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers discuss how a physician's mental health can lead to medical errors. We often hold doctors to a higher standard than other professionals, so it is easy to forget that they are humans who feel many of the same work-related stresses as the rest of us. Like many of us, they have moments of feeling burnt out, fatigued, or depressed. In more extreme cases, they may have suicidal thoughts. Unfortunately, according to a study published by the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, a doctor who is unhappy, tired, or burnt out is more likely to make mistakes when treating patients.

Researchers involved in the study surveyed doctors about issues like burnout, fatigue, and suicidal ideation, as well as the safety of the work environment and the incidence of medical errors. There were 6,586 physicians surveyed from August 28, 2014 to October 6, 2014, and researchers found the following results:

  • Approximately 54 percent of physicians reported symptoms of burnout
  • Close to 33 percent reported excessive fatigue
  • Over six percent reported that they had thoughts of suicide
  • Over 10 percent reported a major medical mistake within the previous three months
  • Physicians who reported medical errors were over twice as likely to have experienced burnout, and 38 percent more likely to have experienced excessive fatigue

While these statistics are alarming, the actual numbers are probably worse, given the fact that most doctors do not relish the idea of admitting that they made a mistake. For nearly the two decades, the number of physicians who report being dissatisfied, burnt out, or suicidal has been climbing. This can have a negative impact on a patient’s quality of care.

How to Fix a Broken System

There are several steps that can be taken to address this problem and improve the healthcare system, including the following:

  • Recruit effective leadership. Leaders must have strong management skills and a comprehensive understanding of medicine and patient care.
  • Leadership should reflect a diverse workforce. Diversity among leadership means they are better able to relate and understand specific employee concerns.
  • Identify the factors that create stressful, unhealthy work environments and take steps to eliminate them. From too much paperwork and little time off to bullying, harassment, and intimidation, these are just a few examples of workplace stressors.
  • Create a clean work environment. Clinics and hospitals should have neat, clean, and organized spaces that are free of clutter.
  • Quality of care measures should include physician satisfaction. Regulatory bodies should consider physician satisfaction, in addition to patient satisfaction.
  • Reimbursement models should be updated to account for physicians’ mental health. Insurance reimbursement should consider a wide range of skills and abilities, and not just procedural and technical skills.
  • Encourage physicians to speak out. This means offering specific complaints or feedback that can help the industry and the public.
  • Update medical education and training to support mental health and well-being.

Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Victims of Medical Errors

If your health has been compromised due to a physician error, contact the Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton as soon as possible. We will seek the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your injury and hold the negligent party responsible for their actions. Protecting your rights is our top priority. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Towson, allowing us to represent medical malpractice victims in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Southern Maryland, and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.