Burnout is risking patient safety, new research finds
MedAware, a health tech company that helps clinicians make decisions using AI, has released new research showing that sleep-deprived, overworked junior clinicians are at increased risk of making mistakes when prescribing medication, jeopardizing patient safety.
The Israeli startup says the results highlight the need for AI-driven, personalised decision support.
Research published in the Lancet in 2019 called physician burnout a 'global crisis'. This has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which is resulting in exhausted healthcare staff, impacting on the quality of care patients receive.
MedAware's study analysed data from a medical center between 2014 and 2017, examining over one thousand physicians who each prescribed at least 100 prescriptions. Medication errors were flagged by MedAware’s decision support system, which uses machine learning algorithms and big data analytics to detect potential medication-related risks.
The research found the following:
- During the period of the study, 1.6 million orders were prescribed by the physicians with over 3,700 prescriptions flagged as erroneous by the system
- Clinicians with high workloads were x8 more likely to make mistakes when prescribing, compared to clinicians with normal workloads
- Continuous back-to-back shifts were associated with twice the risk of error compared to single shift results
Prescribing errors were measured based on the physician’s number of continuous shifts, overall workload and level of experience.
“As expected, this study shows that long shifts with heavy workloads lead to increased physician prescribing errors” said Dr. Gidi Stein, Co-founder and CEO of MedAware and co-author of the study.
“Even in high-stress situations, our system is shown to ensure patient safety and prevent significant harm by accurately detecting and mitigating these risks. With the COVID-19 pandemic straining healthcare systems worldwide and pushing prescribers and clinical care teams to their limits, the need for advanced decision support systems is critical.”
MedAware’s machine-learning algorithms extract and analyse data gathered from millions of electronic health records (EHRs) to detect prescribing behaviour and evolving situations that would otherwise be missed. Acting as a safety layer within the EHR, MedAware’s platform boasts an 85 per cent accuracy rate, and ensures that errors are caught at the earliest possible stage.
The findings show that less experience, longer hours and greater workloads increase the risk of medication-related errors. Moreover, nearly half of the errors were lab result-dependent irregularities, which most current clinical decision support systems do not address, highlighting a significant gap in care. Observations from the study stress the importance of incorporating personalised decision support tools in reducing risks related to medication and improving patient safety.
Skin Analytics wins NHSX award for AI skin cancer tool
An artificial intelligence-driven tool that identifies skin cancers has received an award from NHSX, the NHS England and Department of Health and Social Care's initiative to bring technology into the UK's national health system.
NHSX has granted the Artificial Intelligence in Health and Care Award to DERM, an AI solution that can identify 11 types of skin lesion.
Developed by Skin Analytics, DERM analyses images of skin lesions using algorithms. Within primary care, Skin Analytics will be used as an additional tool to help doctors with their decision making.
In secondary care, it enables AI telehealth hubs to support dermatologists with triage, directing patients to the right next step. This will help speed up diagnosis, and patients with benign skin lesions can be identified earlier, redirecting them away from dermatology departments that are at full capacity due to the COVID-19 backlog.
Cancer Research has called the impact of the pandemic on cancer services "devastating", with a 42% drop in the number of people starting cancer treatment after screening.
DERM is already in use at University Hospitals Birmingham and Mid and South Essex Health & Care Partnership, where it has led to a significant reduction in unnecessary referrals to hospital.
Now NHSX have granted it the Phase 4 AI in Health and Care Award, making DERM available to clinicians across the country. Overall this award makes £140 million available over four years to accelerate the use of artificial intelligence technologies which meet the aims of the NHS Long Term Plan.
Dr Lucy Thomas, Consultant Dermatologist at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, said: “Skin Analytics’ receipt of this award is great news for the NHS and dermatology departments. It will allow us to gather real-world data to demonstrate the benefits of AI on patient pathways and workforce challenges.
"Like many services, dermatology has severe backlogs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This award couldn't have come at a better time to aid recovery and give us more time with the patients most in need of our help.”