Reducing medical error is critical to improving the safety and quality of healthcare. Physician stress, fatigue, and excessive workload are performance-shaping factors (PSFs) that may influence medical events (actual administration errors and near misses), but direct relationships between these factors and patient safety have not been clearly defined. This study assessed the real-time influence of emotional stress, workload, and sleep deprivation on self-reported medication events by physicians in academic hospitals. During an 18-month study period, 185 physician participants working at four university-affiliated teaching hospitals reported medication events using a confidential reporting application on handheld computers. Emotional stress scores, perceived workload, patient case volume, clinical experience, total sleep, and demographic variables were also captured via the handheld computers. Medication event reports (n = 11) were then correlated with these demographic and PSFs. Medication events were associated with 36.1% higher perceived workload (p < .05), 38.6% higher inpatient caseloads (p < .01), and 55.9% higher emotional stress scores (p < .01). There was a trend for reported events to also be associated with less sleep (p = .10). These results confirm the effect of factors influencing medication events, and support attention to both provider and hospital environmental characteristics for improving patient safety.
Keywords: event reporting; medication safety; patient safety.
© 2013 National Association for Healthcare Quality.