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Afternoon hospital visits can pose risk of errors

While people in North Carolina may expect to receive equally fine health care at any time of day, statistics show that going to the hospital in the afternoon may be riskier than at other times of the day. Normal bodily rhythms can often lead to a sluggish, slow feeling in the late afternoon. Productivity often drops in offices at around 3:00 p.m., and the same can be true for hospitals. Of course, the consequences can be much more severe when doctors and other medical professionals are too fatigued to exercise good judgment.

In one study of 90,000 hospital surgeries, anesthesiologists were found to be more likely to make errors during a procedure when it began in the mid-afternoon. While the risk of a mistake by an anesthesiologist was only 1 percent at 9:00 a.m., by 4:00 p.m. it had grown to 4.2 percent. The risk of these medical mistakes causing injury to patients also increased as the day went on. The researchers attributed the mistakes to natural afternoon lows, but the effects on patients of an anesthesiology mistake can be devastating.

While health care professionals are at the forefront of warnings against the overuse of antibiotics, unnecessary prescriptions are more likely in the afternoon. A study indicated that as the day moved forward, doctors were more likely to prescribe antibiotics, even for non-bacterial illnesses. Again, fatigue and bodily rhythms were implicated in poor decision-making. However, these judgment errors can involve more serious illnesses as well; doctors were also less likely to accurately detect colon cancer in the afternoon than in the morning.

People who have been injured or hurt due to a doctor's or hospital's medical mistakes can suffer lifelong injuries and permanent disabilities. A medical malpractice attorney might be able to provide advice about how to pursue compensation for harms done by hospital negligence and other medical errors.

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Daniel Pleasant Holoman LLP

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