Ordering unneeded tests, medication errors, and death can be some of the results of doctors routinely seeing more patients than they can manage safely. These potential results can lead to doctors facing medical malpractice claims. Findings in a survey administered to 506 hospital-based physicians found that seven percent said that there was a chance that their heavy workloads led to patient complications. In addition, five percent said that the size of their workloads probably caused a death in the past year.
To compensate for the cuts health insurers are making to doctors’ compensation, doctors are taking on more and more patients. More than can be handled and still provide the best possible care. Therefore, the number of patients doctors take on is not likely to decrease anytime soon. In fact it is likely to increase as the number of Americans covered by insurance rises by 30 million as the new 2010 health law takes effect. With this comes the risk that as patient volume rises the quality of the health care they will receive will decrease.
A significant number of doctors (forty percent) reported that they at least once a month they have seen an unsafe number of patients. Twenty-five percent said it that the number of patients they were seeing prevented them from answering questions and fully discussing treatment options with their patients. In November of 2010 doctors were surveyed and they said that if they could devote 100 percent of their time to patient care they could safely manage 15 patients during a shift.
There is a concern that suboptimal care and less direct doctor patient care time will result from the excessively increased workload. This decrease in the quality of care will actually increase health care costs rather than increase them. Errors that are made could result in unnecessary tests being ordered, medication errors, longer hospital stays, misdiagnosis, and other types of medical malpractice.
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