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Avoiding an afternoon visit to the doctor

Ohio residents will want to think twice before scheduling an afternoon visit with their doctor. There are at least six good reasons to avoid a visit at that time, the first being that doctors and nurses, like other workers, suffer from the “afternoon slump” where fatigue increases and productivity decreases. Their work shifts go against the circadian rhythm and make them more prone to medical mistakes.

A second reason is that anesthesiologists make more mistakes in the afternoon, especially between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. A Duke University study reviewed about 90,000 hospital surgeries and estimated the probability of a mistake to be 1 percent at 3 p.m. and 4.2 percent at 4 p.m.; this is compared to 0.3 percent at 8 a.m. and 1 percent at 9 a.m.

Most surgical teams begin their shift around 6:30 a.m. or 7 a.m., which means there are shift changes around 3 p.m. Patients may find that two different teams conducted their surgery. A fourth reason to avoid afternoon appointments is that doctors begin to prescribe more antibiotics in the afternoon, even when they are unnecessary.

Cancer detection rates also fall during this period. A study of over 1,000 colonoscopies found that doctors were less likely to identify polyps with every passing hour. The last reason to avoid an afternoon appointment is that doctors and caregivers wash their hands less despite having an opportunity or a professional obligation to do so.

Those who were injured through a medical mistake and who believe that the mistake was due to negligence may want legal advice. A medical malpractice attorney may be able to evaluate a claim and determine if the doctor or nurse failed to live up to an objective standard of care. The attorney might also hire experts to show that the injuries all stem from the mistake. Victims may leave negotiations to their attorney and discuss litigation if these fall through.