Physician burnout doubles risk of patient safety incidents, study finds

Physician burnout is associated with a higher risk of patient safety incidents, poorer care and lower patient satisfaction, according to a study covered in an American Journal of Managed Care blog post.

The meta-analysis of 47 studies, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, included more than 40,000 physicians. Looking at data compiled from the studies, the researchers found physician burnout doubled the odds of them being involved in patient safety incidents.

The increased risk for safety incidents occurred when physicians were emotionally exhausted. The most risk for incidents occurred when physicians exhibited symptoms of depression and emotional distress, which added a more than doubled the risk for patient safety incidents.

The effects of burnout on patient safety did not significantly vary by how established a physician was in her career, the researchers found, but residents and physicians who were just starting their careers showed a bigger association between burnout and lack of professionalism than physicians who had been practicing longer.

Reporting systems for care quality and patient safety outcomes need better standardization across healthcare organizations, enabling larger and more rigorous studies to examine the association between burnout and patient care, the researchers said.

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