Physician burnout and lack of experience threaten patient's safety - study

Doctors were found to be three times more likely to make a prescribing mistake when having less experience with certain prescriptions; those with high workloads were eight times more likely.

Chief doctor Katja de With puts on a protective mask during a media event in the newly opened coronavirus disease (COVID-19) clearing-up centre in Dresden (photo credit: REUTERS)
Chief doctor Katja de With puts on a protective mask during a media event in the newly opened coronavirus disease (COVID-19) clearing-up centre in Dresden
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Physician burnout has long been a problem in the healthcare industry, and COVID-19 has further exacerbated this issue, increasing sleep deprivation of medical workers and the number of under-trained doctors into prescribing roles.
MedAware, a leading AI-enabled decision support and patient safety solutions company, announced the results of a study identifying the risk to patient safety posed by physician burnout, lack of experience and increased workload – a triple threat currently wreaking havoc on the world’s healthcare systems and jeopardizing patient safety
“As expected, this study shows that long shifts with heavy workloads lead to increased physician prescribing errors,” said Dr. Gidi Stein, co-founder and CEO of MedAware and co-author of the study. 
“Even in high-stress situations, our system is shown to ensure patient safety and prevent significant harm by accurately detecting and mitigating these risks. With the COVID-19 pandemic straining healthcare systems worldwide and pushing prescribers and clinical care teams to their limits, the need for advanced decision support systems is critical.”
The large-scale study analyzed data from a premier medical center between 2014 and 2017, examining over one thousand physicians who prescribed some 1.6 million orders during the time of the study. Over 3,700 of these prescriptions were flagged as erroneous by the system, and physicians were found to be three times more likely to make a mistake in their prescriptions when they have less experience in prescribing a specific medication.
Moreover, nearly half of the errors (44%) were lab result-dependent irregularities, which most current clinical decision support systems do not address, highlighting a significant gap in care. 
According to the study, the physicians with high workloads were eight times more likely to erroneously prescribe as compared to physicians with normal workloads, as continuous back-to-back shifts were associated with two times the risk of error when compared to single shift results.
MedAware claims that the results of this study, to be published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, highlight the need to implement AI-driven personalized clinical decision support systems, such as MedAware, to help mitigate medication-related risks and improve patient's safety.
As a conclusion, the research pointed out that restricting successive shifts, reducing workload, increasing training and supervision, and implementing smart clinical decision support systems may help reduce prescription errors.