Slate's Law Blog New Study Addresses the Role of Daylight Savings in Medical Malpractice Cases

Can the time of year in which you see a healthcare provider or schedule an elective surgical procedure affect the likelihood of sustaining an injury due to a medical mistake? According to a recent article in The New York Times, a new study conducted by researchers through the Mayo Clinic Health System found that the loss of an hour in the turn to Daylight Saving Time in the spring resulted in a significant increase in human errors in medicine. More specifically, the overall rate of human errors rose by “a statistically significant 18.7%,” and “most of the errors involved medications, administering either the wrong dose or the wrong drug.” Patients should consider the study and its potential implications for medical malpractice lawsuits.

Lost Hour Can Lead to Medical Errors

In the new research, which was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, found that there were no statistically significant errors surrounding the shift to Daylight Saving Time in the spring for technological systems or equipment, but the rate of mistakes does increase significantly when it comes to human error. In the fall, when there is a shift from Daylight Saving Time to standard time, the researchers saw no statistically significant change in any of the systems or areas, including human error.

In other words, when healthcare providers lose an hour in the spring, which also means the loss of an hour of sleep along with other consequences, those healthcare providers may be more likely to make mistakes. Dr. Bhanu Prakash Kolla, the lead author of the study, emphasized that “health care organizations should be aware that the spring change is a period of increased risk and should make plans for it.”

It should not come as a complete surprise that the shift to Daylight Saving Time can lead physicians and other healthcare providers to make more mistakes in the days that follow the time change. For years, researchers have reported that turning the clocks ahead for Daylight Saving Time results in an increased rate of serious and deadly motor vehicle collisions, among rises in other types of accidents and injuries. Indeed, according to a Science Daily article, the week after Daylight Saving Time begins each year typically coincides with a “surge” in fatal car accident rates.

Patient Steps to Avoid Medication Errors

While patients should not have to worry that a healthcare provider will make a medication mistake or another type of error, it is nonetheless important to be aware of steps that patients can take to help avoid injury from a medication error.

The Mayo Clinic underscores the importance of patients asking questions about medications—as many questions as possible. Patients should ask their prescribing physician about the generic and brand names for the drug, what the medication looks like, what its intended effects and side effects are, what dosage they are taking, how long they should take the drug, what to do in the event of a missed dose or overdose, and whether the drug has any harmful interactions with other medications or foods. Patients should also be certain that their prescribing physician has accurate and up-to-date information about the patient’s existing medications and any allergies or conditions.

See Advice From a Santa Fe Medical Malpractice Lawyer

If a doctor or another healthcare provider makes a mistake and a patient suffers an injury, the shift to Daylight Saving Time is not an excuse. Regardless of the time of year of your medical injury, should speak with an experienced New Mexico medical malpractice lawyer about your options. Contact Slate Stern Law today.


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