Doctors worldwide observe increased medical errors due to staffing shortages

March 28, 2022
WATERTOWN, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Corroborating US CDC data and multiple third-party studies, a report on the mental health of healthcare professionals (HCPs) in six Western nations shows that chronic staffing shortages are impacting both patient care and patient mental health, as well as physician mental health. A third (34%) of responding physicians say they have observed an increase in medical errors as a result of staff shortages—at a high of 58% in Spain. Three-quarters of doctors surveyed say their patients are also worrying about the quality or safety of their care, and 58% say staffing related issues impact patient mental health.

More than half of physicians report feeling frustrated (65%), burnt out (54%), and unappreciated (52%) in the past three months. Over 50% of them are so impacted by chronic stress that they say they have considered leaving their profession in the past three months.

Data are from Survey Healthcare Global (SHG), a brand of Apollo Intelligence (Apollo) and were sourced February 14-16, 2022 from six of the most pandemic-impacted medical specialties in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

“SHG’s data, derived from the voice and firsthand experiences of HCPs, paint a troubling picture of the global healthcare system at a time when aging demographics worldwide are demanding more healthcare resources,” said Daniel S. Fitzgerald, CEO of Apollo, parent to SHG. “When physicians voice such strong concern about medical errors and the quality of patient care, healthcare leaders must take notice and redouble efforts to address the root causes of the staffing shortage. Apollo has been closely tracking physician stresses and experience from the onset of the pandemic, and we’ll continue to report key learnings on this important issue.”

A Chronically Downtrodden HCP Community

Three-quarters of physicians around the world report feeling stressed by the staffing shortage. For the top contributors to their strained mental health, respondents rank constant stress (34%) and staff shortages (30%) as the leading factors. Eighteen percent report that they are more likely to drink, smoke, or use/abuse substances as a result. Yet nearly 75% say their organizations do not offer any wellness resources and programs to HCP employees.

While COVID is regarded as the biggest reason for staff shortages by respondents in five of six nations, burnout is the second largest cause, cited by between 26% and 40% depending on country—and the largest cause in Germany. However, 40% of respondents say that healthcare staffing shortages originated well before the pandemic.

Compromised Patient Quality

Respondents report that staffing problems are creating longer patient wait times (80%) and decreasing the quality of care (69%). Seventy-two percent say their patients have experienced delayed access to treatments, to routine visits (71%), and surgeries (59%). Fifty-six percent say the resulting delays in diagnosis, care, surgery, and treatment have impacted patients’ physical health and increased pain and suffering (30%).

Spain: Impact Higher Than Other Nations

HCPs in Spain report the highest levels of physician and patient impacts from the present staffing shortages among the six Western nations in the report, including HCPs experiencing workforce anxiety and emotional exhaustion (86%) in the past three months, as well as HCP physical exhaustion and stress (84%) in the past three months. Spanish HCPs also reported the highest percentages of respondents noting their patients experiencing increased waiting times (92%) and decreases in quality of care (90%). Despite these high levels, just 4% of responding Spanish doctors say that they have organizational wellness resources available to them.

SHG’s “Mental Health Consequences of Healthcare’s Labor Shortage” report included n=402 HCPs in the US (n=200), UK (n=58), Germany (n=30), Italy (n=39) Spain (n=50) and France (n=25) responding between February 8-14, 2022. Respondents represented five specialties with sizable pandemic impact, including family medicine/general practice, emergency medicine, pediatrics, intensive/critical care, and surgery in relatively equal proportion. All respondents had experienced staffing shortages and mental health impacts as a result of staffing shortages.

About Apollo Intelligence, LLC
Apollo Intelligence’s mission is to accelerate health innovation to improve life. In 2019, Apollo launched with the acquisition of InCrowd, the pioneer of real-time automated insights for the life sciences industry. To complement InCrowd and strengthen its global reach, in 2020 Apollo acquired Survey Healthcare Global, the global market leader of first-party healthcare data collection and custom survey solutions. Apollo provides access to 2M healthcare stakeholders worldwide—including physicians, patients, caregivers, and allied healthcare professionals. Apollo’s 220+ employees support top global pharmaceutical brands, market research agencies, and consultancies across 13 different countries in the Americas, Europe, and Asia.