Due to the time change in summer, medical negligence increases

Study Analyzes Three Decades of Medical Malpractice Allegations to Compare Daylight Saving Time to Winter Time

Incidents of medical malpractice are more serious during the summer months of the year in the United States, according to a new study that examined three decades of medical malpractice claims.

Results show that both malpractice severity and payment decisions were higher during daylight saving time months than standard time months, after controlling for whether states observe daylight saving time. In the week following the spring to daylight saving time transition, payment decisions were also higher, but medical events were not more serious.

“The change from daylight saving time to spring has long been associated with sleepiness, cardiovascular accidents and traffic accidents, but only recently has it been recognized that decision-making processes at the population level are also affected by the change to spring time,” says lead researcher Michael Scullin, Ph.D. in Psychology and Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. “The current results add to this literature by showing that an area that one would expect to be immune – medical errors and malpractice litigation – is also vulnerable.”

The study was published March 6 as an accepted article in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, the official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Changed schedule

According to AASM, standard time is optimal because it is closely aligned with the sun’s position in the sky, called “solar time.” This synchrony is important for the body because sunlight is the strongest external signal of humans’ circadian rhythms, the internal “body clock” that regulates the timing of alertness, sleepiness and other biological functions. By artificially advancing the time by one hour, daylight saving time creates a discrepancy between the time and solar time, disrupting the circadian rhythm. This change can affect sleep, attention, mood and performance.

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Researchers analyzed 288,432 negligence claims between January 1990 and September 2018 from the National Practitioner Data Bank, the largest database of negligence incidents in the United States. To examine the acute effects of daylight saving time, they compared claims from a week before and after the time change in the spring. They also assessed chronic impacts by comparing accidents during daylight saving time months to those during standard time months. The control states were those that consistently observed standard time: Arizona, Hawaii, and Indiana (until April 2006).

According to lead author Chenlu Gao, the study design did not allow causality to be assessed, but the results suggest that daylight saving time affects health care outcomes and costs.

“In addition to the abrupt change to daylight saving time, it is possible that several months of living on this schedule could lead to accumulated circadian misalignment, which could then impact medical errors and legal judgments,” said Gao, who majors in neuroscience has a doctorate. of behavior and is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Anesthesiology, Critical Care and Pain Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “Our work joins numerous other studies documenting the deleterious effects of the spring DST transition, and the evidence gathered should encourage stakeholders and policymakers to reevaluate DST for the benefit of the public at large.”

The European Parliament agreed on its position on the proposal in March 2019: it voted to abolish the summer and winter flight schedules in 2021. However, due to the lack of consensus among European Union member states, this decision was delayed.


Medical Malpractice Litigation and DST

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