Physicians around the world practice under the Hippocratic Oath, which is a concept created by Greek philosopher Hippocrates, who conceived of a code of ethics that govern the actions and behavior of doctors.
Part of the reason the Hippocratic Oath exists is due to the immense power doctors wield over the general populace, often acting as agents who make the difference between life and death. This god-like power was recognized by Hippocrates, who created the oath as a covenant between doctors, patients and the ancient Greek gods.
The modern version of the Hippocratic Oath doesn’t require physicians to swear an oath to the gods, but instead involves a promise to never play God. Doctors promise to focus on the quality of care for their patients above all else, focusing on healing people and doing no harm. In the end of the day, doctors are still humans, fallible, and prone to a myriad of missteps that stem from different challenges and issues inherent to working as a physician.
Despite years of intense education and training, doctors still make terrible mistakes and perform their duties in a way that reduces quality of care, leading to a variety of scary truths about the profession.
10. Avoiding Lawsuits Instead of Providing Health Care
A Jackson Healthcare survey uncovered that the vast majority of doctors, 92 percent, made medical decisions according to legal concerns rather than providing the best standard of diagnostic care for their patients. Every year, patients endure hundred of thousands of unnecessary tests and procedures, ordered to avoid any potential of medical malpractice. Eight percent of all surgeries, 14 percent of prescriptions and more than a quarter of all tests are performed to avoid litigation. The resulting cost to the American health care system alone measures between $650-$850 billion per year. Even worse, some doctors actively avoid treating patients listed as “high-risk cases” for lawsuits.
9. Practicing with Criminal Records
Criminal convictions, even for serious violent and sexual crime, isn’t a barrier for many physicians wanting to practice medicine. Many medical boards and associations that certify physicians don’t automatically ban doctors from practicing when they commit serious breaches of the public trust. Over 800 doctors in the United Kingdom still see patients after convictions for grievous bodily harm, child cruelty, domestic assault, drug trafficking, perjury and sexual assault. One doctor in Miami was even reinstated to practice after serving three years for an offense that carries up to life in prison, becoming a registered sex offender in the same state in which he’s registered, raising serious questions about patient safety.
8. Working While Deprived of Sleep
One of the traditions of young doctors beginning their careers involves working brutal, extended shifts as long as 16 consecutive hours. This is an improvement over residency programs that featured shifts that were as long as 30 hours.
This particular form of medical training started during the late 19th century, pioneered by Dr. William Halsted, a leader in healthcare training who still influences current medical practices. He required his doctors to be on call 362 days a year, setting the tone for working hours for doctors for more than a century.
Unfortunately, similar to Sigmund Freud, Dr. Halsted supported his workaholic nature by ingesting large amounts of cocaine on a daily basis. Studies suggest that sleeplessness results in a 36 percent increase in errors that occur when physicians are sleep deprived – mistakes such as prescribing drug overdoses and draining the fluid from the wrong lung.
7. Doctors Outsource Their Work
Depending on the hospital or clinic visited, doctors may not have access to all the necessary diagnostic tools and specialists that help physicians make the best possible decisions regarding the condition and treatment of their patients. As a result, vital aspects of diagnoses end up getting passed along to off-site contractors when patients visit during times when specialists aren’t present.
This game of ‘broken telephone’ affects the quality and efficiency of care. When a hospital doesn’t have a radiologist present, imaging scans may be emailed to contractors who may not have all the pertinent information about the patient, causing them to miss important details or refrain from offering a potentially life-saving opinion.
6. Doctors Disagree with their Own Diagnoses
The idea that medicine has a standardized code of practice with set produces for many different types of ailments provides patients with a sense of confidence when visiting a doctor.
However, research studies show that the way doctors treat patients vary greatly from physician to physician, including cases where doctors disagree with their own diagnoses. Every step of the medical process results in different opinions from physicians, from prescriptions and recommended treatments to the basics of reading patient medical history and performing examinations.
Studies show that depending on circumstances, physicians will disagree with their own findings up to half of the time, even when they’re looking at the same image.
5. Problems With Aging Doctors
Over a fifth of the doctors working in the United States are 65 or older, with that number likely to increase as more physicians face difficulty with finances that prevent them from retiring or stopping practice.
While plenty of physicians maintain sound mental and physical fitness into old age, far too many doctors face challenges that prevent them from providing adequate care for their patients. Sadly, many hospitals and certification boards only step in to test physician competency after something bad has happened.
Statistics suggest that more patients die after complicated procedures involving surgeons aged 60 and older. The scariest fact about the age demographics of doctors is the estimate that more than 8,000 physicians still practice despite suffering from dementia.
4. Doctors Don’t Like Washing Their Hands
Despite more than a hundred years of research that proves the importance of cleanliness when treating patients, it turns out that many doctors have difficulty remembering the first step when treating patients.
Data shows that as few as 40 percent of doctors sanitize their hands according to regulation, making themselves an excellent carrier for many types of disease, including potentially deadly infections that are resistant to antibiotics.
Every year, millions of patients enter hospitals and clinics for treatment, only to pick up an additional sickness at the healthcare facility. This leads to thousands of unnecessary casualties and billions of dollars in medical costs on an annual basis.
3. Drug Companies Persuade Doctors to Boost Sales
In 2009, approximately 84 percent of all physicians in the US were paid by a drug company for their services.
Recent surveys show that corporations such as Pfizer, which had over 140,000 doctors on their payroll, and AstraZeneca, with more than 110,000 physicians on their paid list, pay billions of dollars each year for the persuasive authority of doctors.
Drugs companies pay tens of millions of dollars every year for doctors to give speeches or lectures about specific pharmaceuticals, even flying physicians from city to city for dinner meetings with other doctors, encouraging them to increase the amount of prescriptions they write for the company’s product. Pharmaceutical sales representatives monitor the amount of prescriptions written through available medical databases. This allows them to track doctor behavior while persuading them to prescribe as much of their company’s medicine as possible.
2. Silence is the Silent Killer
One of the key aspects of working as a team of healthcare practitioners involves clear communication among doctors and support staff. However, due to the social pressures of the work environment, most staff experience significant problems expressing information and critiques that help doctors take better care of their patients.
A 2005 research paper called Silence Kills: The Seven Crucial Conversations for Healthcare showed that a whopping 88 percent of doctors work alongside colleagues who they consider to have poor medical judgement skills while 84 percent of all physicians have witnessed coworkers put patients in danger due to shortcuts.
Despite these findings, less than 10 percent of all healthcare practitioners, including doctors, nurses and others, speak up and communicate with colleagues about problems negatively impacting patient care.
1. Preventable Medical Errors: Third Biggest Killer in the USA
The third largest cause of death among Americans involve medical errors that could have been prevented, with only heart disease and cancer causing more death. Published by the Journal of Patient Safety, the study estimates that a minimum of 210,000 were killed by medical error, with as many as 400,000 people passing away due to preventable mistakes. In fact, the moment a patient enters a hospital environment, there is a one in three chance that she or he will end up becoming injured or sick because of their visit to the facility. While doctors aren’t the cause of all of these deaths and injuries, the unbelievable number of patients negatively affected by visiting a physician points to serious issues in providing healthcare for the masses.
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