By Dr. Dave Hnida

DENVER (CBS4) – A new survey suggests that doctors who are burned out by work were more than twice as likely to make an error in patient care. In fact, in the survey more than one in 10 said that job fatigue had caused them to commit at least one major medical mistake just within the past three months. And that certainly puts you at risk.

The most common errors: making the wrong diagnosis; ordering the wrong tests; misinterpreting tests; making mistakes writing prescriptions; and “technical” mistakes while performing a procedure or surgery.

The reasons why?  Too many patients, poor electronic record systems, insurance battles, mandatory meetings unrelated to medical care, longer workdays, more administrators than ever, and fewer staff members to help an office or clinic run smoothly are just several of the laundry list of issues that cause many doctors to forget Hippocrates, and just go through the motions when you come in for care.

Here’s one prime example that you can probably relate to: when you go to your doctor, do you wind up spending the visit staring at the doctor’s back as he or she pounds the computer keys rather than look at you and give you undivided attention?

And that habit is worse outside the exam room. It’s estimated that for every hour of actual patient care, we spend two hours doing computer or paperwork. It can make us feel like we are on an assembly line in a factory rather than doing what we were trained to do in medical school.

So what can you do from the patient’s side of the stethoscope?

Be prepared for your visit. Be as specific as possible.

Make a list of your main three complaints. Go past three, and we drift.

List the most important one first. That’s the one that will get the most attention.

Bring a pad/paper to take notes.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about medications/tests/etc.

Make sure you understand the plan, as in what’s the next step if you don’t feel better.

Ask how soon you should return to the office, either routinely or you don’t improve.

Finally, ask how many patients the doctor has in the practice … in other words, how crowded are things? Some estimate that 2,000 patients in a practice is busy enough … 2,200 is pushing it … 3000, and you may never be able to get an appointment and the attention you need.

The survey can be found in Mayo Clinic Proceedings at

Dr. Dave Hnida is CBS4’s Medical Editor. He blogs about the latest studies and trends in the health world. Read his latest blog entries, check out his bio or follow him on Twitter @drdavehnida




Leave a Reply