MONDAY, Jan. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Ever had a hospital stay and felt neglected by harried, distracted doctors?
You may not be alone: A new study finds that four out of every 10 doctors working in U.S. hospitals say they are overworked, and one out of five says these jammed schedules could threaten patient safety.
According to the survey of more than 500 hospital-based doctors, 20 percent said their level of overwork could mean incomplete patient discussions, delayed diagnoses, ordering of unnecessary lab tests, medical errors and even patient death.
Fully 36 percent of doctors reported that these issues occur more than once a week.
The findings may be important to efforts aimed at reducing medical errors in the nation's hospitals. According to a landmark Institute of Medicine report issued in 2000, as many as 98,000 people die each year while in the hospital due to preventable medical errors.
"The new study recognizes that not only are [overworked doctors] a problem, but it's a very common problem that is experienced across the country in different types of hospitals with different kinds of patients," said study co-author Dr. Henry Michtalik, an assistant professor in the division of general internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.
"I was surprised by the high percentages," he said. "We did not expect the numbers to be minimal, but we did not expect them to be as high as 40 percent."
So how many hospital patients are considered too many for doctors? "More than 15 patients a shift is perceived as leading to greater potential of being unsafe," Michtalik said.
The findings, which appear in the Jan. 28 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, should spark a discussion about the constraints placed on doctors and how to best address them, he added.
Michtalik said numerous factors
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