It’s not a surprise that healthcare providers are more likely to make mistakes at the end of the day, when they are tired after seeing many patients. This is supported by a recent study in JAMA Network Open and was also a topic on Forbes too.
The general conclusion is that afternoon fatigue is affecting many physicians. Based on this studies, some experts even suggest that you don’t visit your doctor later in the afternoon because the effects of later afternoon fatigue may compromise the patient’s safety.
Some doctors tend to order less of necessary testing/screening e.g. breast or colon cancer screening in the afternoon than in the morning. You might wonder if this has anything to do with medical errors. Well in this particular case, all patients were due for screening. However, the number of screenings ordered was highest in the morning and by the end of the day, those races were at least 10-15% lower. Many experts believe that fatigue is the main cause of this discrepancy. So based on these researches, primary physicians make mistakes in the afternoon that they wouldn’t in the morning.
Also, not only the primary physicians are the ones making mistakes due to fatigue. Did you know that radiology errors also increase as the day goes by? Some research says that the diagnostic accuracy drops by 4% later in the afternoon. This means that some fractures and nodules go unnoticed later in the day.
How to reduce medical mistakes
In order to reduce the mistakes caused by fatigue, healthcare providers could:
- Take breaks every few hours
- If possible try working in shorter shifts, up to 9 hours
- Step away from the computer after you’re done with a few patients
Of course even patients can contribute to reducing the number of errors by:
- Making appointments early in the morning
- Stay well informed about the screening options
- Make follow-up arrangements with your doctor.
In case that you or your loved one was misdiagnosed or received medical care and suffered an injury as a result, you should contact a personal injury lawyer to help you file a claim for compensation. A personal injury lawyer that has experience with medical malpractices will be able to provide you additional information on medical errors and inform you about your rights.