Medical Errors Linked to Physician Depression

A new study has linked depressed physicians to an increase in medical errors, further highlighting the need for interventions aimed at bolstering physician well-being.

As the conversation about physician burnout and what to do about it continues steadily on, a new study published in JAMA Network Open has linked depressed physicians to an increase in medical errors.

Researchers from University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor conducted a systematic review and analysis of 11 different studies, which involved more than 21,000 physicians. As a result, they found that physicians who experienced depressive symptoms were 1.95 times more likely to make medical errors than their mentally healthy peers, and that the association between depressive symptoms and perceived errors was bidirectional.

“Given that few physicians with depression seek treatment and that recent evidence has pointed to the lack of organizational interventions aimed at reducing physician depressive symptoms, our findings underscore the need for institutional policies to remove barriers to the delivery of evidence-based treatment to physicians with depression,” the study’s authors wrote. “Investments in patient safety have been associated with significant reductions in health care costs, and the bidirectional associations between physician depressive symptoms and perceived medical errors verified by this meta-analysis suggest that physician well-being is critical to patient safety.”

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