A recent survey conducted by Johns Hopkins University researchers has raised questions about the relationship between patient safety and the workload given to doctors. When researchers asked 506 doctors about their workloads, 40 percent responded that the number of patients that visited them during a month regularly exceeded the number they felt was safe. They indicated that their heavy workload was leading to medical errors and a reduction in the quality of the care they provided.
Several studies have suggested that many thousands of patients die in the United States every year due to medical mistakes that could have been prevented. A significant percentage of doctors clearly believe that workload is a contributor to this problem. Among the consequences of overwork was the inability to fully discuss available treatment options for patients. Patients were not being admitted quickly enough and they were not being discharged in a timely manner. More than 20 percent of the doctors asked said that their average workload had contributed to patient transfers, morbidity and even mortality.
Some have suggested that the nation is about to suffer an acute shortage of doctors. With as many as 30 million additional Americans about to join the ranks of the insured, it is likely that there will be an increase in the demand for medical care. If workload issues are not addressed properly, it could lead to thousands more preventable deaths.
A doctor must be given enough time to make an informed decision about treatment. Patients should be encouraged to ask questions and develop a full understanding of the treatment they receive. If the workload of doctors is excessive, the result will be injuries and deaths that never should have happened.
Source: Medical News Today, “Excessive Workload Among Doctors Undermines Patient Safety,” by Joseph Nordqvist, 29 January 2013