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A recent study by from Stanford as found that a significant number of physicians are suffering from burnout and/or depression which can contribute to serious medical errors. From ABC News:

Fifty-five percent of doctors reported symptoms of burnout, 33 percent had high levels of fatigue, and 6.5 percent had thoughts of killing themselves in the last year. According to the study, doctors have 3 to 5 times the suicide rate of the general public.

Medical errors are more than twice as likely if a doctor has signs of burnout, and 38 percent more likely if they have signs of fatigue. This was consistent even in workplaces with different safety levels.

“A physician with burnout in a work unit with a safety grade of A has similar rates of error as a non-burnout physician in a unit with safety-grades much lower,” lead author, Dr. Daniel Tawfik, MD, MS instructor of pediatrics and critical care at Stanford University, told to ABC News.

The remarks on the suicide rate among physicians are not particularly surprising. Those have been reported for the last half century along with high rates of alcoholism and/or drug abuse.

I have no ability to “reality check” those findings; I merely pass them along. If true, they’re concerning.

Something else I’ve mentioned from time to time is the number of physicians presently taking antidepressants. We don’t really have any idea how many are doing so but I don’t believe there’s anything in the studies that have been done of antidepressant use which would suggest that patients taking them are performing at peak intellectual capacity. This is a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. In my view physicians taking psycho-active drugs are ethically obligated to disclose that to their patients.

There are a few more observations on this subject here and here from the NCBI.

12 comments… add one
  • steve

    The whole issue of burnout is about as nebulous as you can get. It is very poorly defined and “treatments” vary widely. I am sure it exists, I am sure some of my staff have it, I just don’t know how to be sure unless it is obvious, and even when I thought it has been obvious at times it turned out they were having major family issues and the “burnout” disappeared when the family issue resolved.

    My best guess is that if you obligate physicians, and then probably other health care workers, to disclose that they are on anti-depressants and stuff that they will avoid treatment or just lie about it. Write for it for themselves. That said, this is just one study. If it is well substantiated in follow up I would support disclosure. (This was a self reported study, which has issues. We can’t really be sure what the results are telling us.)

    Steve

  • My best guess is that if you obligate physicians, and then probably other health care workers, to disclose that they are on anti-depressants and stuff that they will avoid treatment or just lie about it.

    That’s what I meant by “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”.

  • Guarneri
  • Contrary to the linked post public pensions in Illinois are both overpromised and underfunded. The promises can’t be broken without amending the state’s constitution, the likelihood of which is essentially nil. I’m skeptical that they’ll be able to raise revenues either. Illinois already has the highest property and sales taxes in the country. The focus is on imposing a graduated income tax but that would require amending the constitution, too.

  • Guarneri

    “……..both overpromised and underfunded. The promises can’t be broken without amending the state’s constitution……”

    I know. Would you like yours to be Prozac, Zoloft……….?

    “I’m skeptical that they’ll be able to raise revenues either. Illinois already has the highest property and sales taxes in the country. The focus is on imposing a graduated income tax but that would require amending the constitution, too.”

    You can’t get there from here.

    But back to our regularly scheduled programming. I suspect there are a number of high power, high intensity professions in which people experience burnout, depression, addictive outlets. You have regulary called for a early retirement age for manual laborers. I think it’s a broader issue, and so subjective as to make any outside agency involvement quite problematic.

  • Andy

    Not sure if it’s related, but I read recently that patients should avoid scheduling surgeries in the afternoon statistically the outcomes for afternoon surgeries are worse.

  • You have regulary called for a early retirement age for manual laborers.

    My views are a bit more complex than that. I think that Social Security retirement age should be raised for most people and either lowered or stay the same for manual laborers, possibly by creating an additional category of SSDI.

  • Guarneri

    I know. My usual shorthand. My view is that it’s a shurefire recipe for yet more political jockeying and favoritism.

  • Politics is the master science.

  • Gray Shambler

    Retirements, underfunded pensions, public and private, combined with Democracy will I think, lead to more Federal government involvement and therefore more Federal debt. The estimates I’ve read are around $1 Trillion US dollars.

    Dave, not to hijack the thread but what would be the repercussions of that?

  • Total U. S. debt, public and private, is estimated at around $50 trillion. Unfunded federal, state, and local liabilities are estimated to be in the region of $150 trillion. A trillion here and a trillion there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.

    I presume that Ben would tell us that extending the debt by, say, another $5 trillion a year would have no consequences. I’m not convinced of that because I think we would be risking hyperinflation and I have a different view of hyperinflation than he does. I think that hyperinflation is caused by a sudden, radical loss of confidence in the currency and it can happen all at once and without warning. In other words I think that hyperinflation is a psychological and political phenomenon only tangentially related to pragmatic issues. Not to put words in his mouth but I presume that Ben would say that hyperinflation can’t happen in a country that’s a monetary sovereign without certain external phenomena intervening.

    However, if Ben’s right, we just write a check for it and all of those liabilities are taken care of.

  • Guarneri

    “However, if Ben’s right, we just write a check for it and all of those liabilities are taken care of.”

    While they are at it they should just print and issue $200MM to everyone. It will be great for the private jet business, and alleviate so many worries about AI.

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