KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Two New Studies Test Conventional Wisdom About Physician Behavior

Two new studies test classic assumptions about doctor behavior, including whether fatigue, stress and even full moons impede their work. Meanwhile, separate reports investigate would-be physicians' behavior far from the exam room or operating table -- on Facebook, YouTube, and private blogs.

A Cleveland Clinic study published today in the journal Anesthesiology found timing has little impact on physician performance on elective coronary bypass surgery, USA Today reports. An analysis of 18,597 procedures showed no variation in outcomes based on the time, day of the week, month, or lunar phase. The finding contradicts conventional wisdom that getting appointments early in the week, or at an early morning time, will mean a fresher, sharper and better physician, or that full moons put doctors "a little off-kilter" (Rubin, 9/23).

A separate study of resident physicians published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that stress, as well as fatigue leads to more medical errors, Reuters/ reports. Additionally, the study concludes that not only are doctors more likely to make mistakes when they are stressed and tired, but they often also know in advance about their condition. "While fatigue is important, there is this whole domain of distress beyond fatigue that also demands attention," said the Mayo Clinic doctor who led the study (Fox, 9/22).

Outside of the hospital, young doctors are getting in trouble, too, the Associated Press/USA Today reports. A recent survey of medical school deans said "they were aware of students posting unprofessional content online, including photos of drug paraphernalia and violations of patient privacy. Some infractions resulted in warnings, others in being expelled" (9/22).

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