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Depression among doctors can lead to medical errors –Experts

According to recent study, health physicians with depressive symptoms are 95% more likely to make medical errors. The analysis also showed that doctors who made medical errors are 67% more likely to have subsequent depressive symptoms.

The findings were published in JAMA Network Open, Impact on Quality of Care. The study was investigated by Karina Pereira-Lima, University of Sao Paulo. She said that when findings of the research are important not just for doctors but for the patients as well. Since the depressive symptoms often experienced by doctor are preventable and can be treated as well.

Also, the medical errors committed by depressed doctors can cost millions of dollars to health care system as fine.

  The investigators noted that depression is highly prevalent among physicians and has been associated with an increased risk of medical errors. However, the extent of the relationship between the two phenomena remains unclear.

In other words, does depression in physicians lead to the perception that they are making medical errors, or do medical errors lead to depression?

To investigate this, the researchers analyzed data from 11 studies. Seven longitudinal and four cross-sectional were done in which a total of 21,517 physicians were included. Nine studies were carried out in the United States, one in Japan, and one in South Korea.

Eight studies included only physicians in training. The remainder included physicians from any career level. Seven studies recruited physicians from multiple specialties, whereas four recruited physicians from a single specialty, one in pediatric residents, one in anesthesiology residents, and two in internal medicine residents. Eight studies inquired about “major medical errors” in the past 3 months, two inquired about errors in the past year, and one actively surveyed errors in a 1-month interval.

“Major medical error” could refer to those that had patient or healthcare system consequences, said Pereira-Lima.

Research suggests that there’s a “very strong correlation” between self-reported and objective measure of medical errors, although this needs to be further investigated. The magnitude of the association was generally consistent across studies that assessed practicing physicians and those in training.The report showed that depressive symptoms can affect quality of care, as per provided by physicians, independent of the level there depression is at.

However, Pereira-Lima added that since most of the studies examined doctors in training, more research in practicing physicians is necessary.The report suggests that some specialties are more prone to medical errors or that some errors are “more memorable.”

Still, the findings reported need more exploration.

The US studies yielded higher estimates of the association between depression and medical errors compared with non-US studies. Since most studies only assessed US physicians, “this is definitely something that needs to be more investigated in other cultures before we can make a conclusion,” said Pereira-Lima.

-article published in

December 2, 2019

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