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Patient safety at risk when doctors are overworked

Patient safety at U.S. hospitals has come under scrutiny lately and a new report on doctors being overworked portrays the risk patients may face when admitted to the hospital. A new study found that four out of every 10 doctors working in hospitals said they were overworked, with one out of five of those doctors saying that it could decrease patient safety.Twenty percent of hospital doctors said that having too much work to do could contribute to delayed diagnoses, incomplete patient exams, medical errors and even patient deaths, according to the study. The doctors in the study said that these types of concerns happen more than once a week, especially in hospitals where doctors are understaffed or required to work long hours.Researchers said that there are many factors contributing to the increase in physicians being overworked. The aging patient population, complex cases of chronic diseases and changes to the health care system has made it more difficult for physicians to manage their patients' care in a safe manner, especially if they have too many patients.
The researchers said that the study highlights why it is important for hospitals to try and reduce the risk factors that cause medical errors. More than 98,000 patients die every year due to preventable medical errors in U.S. hospitals, according to an Institute of Medicine report.

This study shows what issues need to be addressed to reduce medical errors at hospitals. When doctors and other medical staff members are overworked and tired, they are more likely to make a medical mistake that can negatively impact a patient's health.

Patient safety advocates said that something needs to be done to address the risk of medical errors caused by overworked hospital physicians. Physician groups said that for patient safety to increase, doctors need to have fewer patients and not work as long of hours. They called for hospitals to increase the number of hospital physicians working at busier hospitals as well as regulating the number of hours physicians can work in one hospital shift.

Source: HealthDay News, "1 in 5 Hospital Docs Reports 'Unsafe' Workloads: Study," Denise Mann, Jan. 28, 2013

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