According to a new study, doctors’ attitude has an impact on their job and the risk of medical malpractice.
The study’s findings were published in the ‘British Medical Journal’ journal. Between 2013 and 2018, a study team lead by Dr Owen Bradfield and Professor Matthew Spittal analysed over 12,000 Australian doctors’ responses to the Medicine in Australia Balancing Employment and Life (MABEL) survey.
Doctors who participated in the poll were asked about their age, gender, specialisation, personality, health, life satisfaction, working circumstances, and if they had ever been sued.
“This allowed us to analyse and correlate work, health and personality factors with a doctor’s risk of being sued,” Dr Bradfield said. Just over five per cent of the doctors surveyed reported being named in a medical negligence claim during this period. The findings were more pronounced for male doctors than females.
“It is critical that we try to better understand why some doctors are sued. A mistake by a doctor can have tragic consequences for patients and can be costly for the health system,” Dr Bradfield said.
“Patients who suffer harm from a medical error can sue the doctor concerned in order to seek redress, answers, and assurances that mistakes will not be repeated. Therefore, understanding why that doctor made a mistake and was sued can help us reduce medical errors and improve healthcare quality.”
Professor Spittal went on to say that previous research has shown that older male doctors who conduct surgical operations and have a history of complaints are at the highest risk of being sued.
“However, because not all older male surgeons are actually sued, we suspected that work, health, and personality factors might also hold the key to explaining these differences,” Professor Spittal said.
Dr Bradfield said the identification of additional risk factors could be important for employers, regulators and health practitioners who care for unwell doctors.
“We need to reduce doctor fatigue by addressing long working hours. We also need to create supportive work environments and target interventions that improve doctors’ overall well-being, such as through healthy lifestyles and positive psychology programs. This could reduce the risk of doctors being sued, and improve patient safety,” he said.
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