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The Link Between Daylight Savings Time and Medical Errors: Should DST Be Abolished?

On Behalf of | Sep 17, 2020 | Medical Malpractice

Medical groups argue for a fixed, year-round time schedule after data shows spikes in sleep deprivation-related human medical error caused by Daylight Savings Time (DST). Here, the medical malpractice attorneys at Peter Angelos Law discuss the findings of an observational study showing a spike in medical errors the week after the switch to daylight savings time and the effect it has on public health.

Medical Errors Increased by Almost 19% After Daylight Savings Time

In the week after the Spring time change, human error-related medical safety incidents rose by 18.7%, while the increase in incidents after the Fall time change was 5%, reported Bhanu Prakash Kolla, MD. Kolla is an associate professor of psychiatry and psychology and consultant at the Center for Sleep Medicine at the Mayo Clinic. Kolla’s observational study was the first to examine patient safety incidents caused by human error during DST. The data suggests that when medical health professionals lose an hour of sleep caused by the “spring forward,” their temporary sleep deprivation is subjecting them to an increased risk of making medical errors that affect patient safety.

“Medical errors can result in significant morbidity and mortality. We need to do everything to mitigate these risks,” said Dr. Kolla regarding the increase in medical errors after DST. Not only should healthcare facilities attempt to increase preventative measures to combat this unsettling trend, but many organizations such as the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) are proponents of abolishing DST entirely.

Daylight Savings Time May Impact Public Health and Safety

In addition to Kolla’s study, similar studies have supported the effect that DST can have on public health; an article published on MedPage Today suggests that the frequency of heart attacks are affected by the Spring time change, and a study published in Science Daily suggests DST has clinical implications on health. These implications include an increased risk for heart attacks and ischemic stroke, as well as other negative aspects associated with sleep loss. In addition, fatal accidents and even car accidents can increase in frequency in the time following the DST transition.

In a submission in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, members of the AASM wrote that DST causes “misalignment between the biological clock and environmental clock, resulting in significant health and public safety-related consequences, especially in the days immediately following the annual change to DST.” In other words, DST can interrupt our natural circadian rhythms, and a transition away from DST and towards year-round, standard time could benefit both public health and healthcare safety.

The Baltimore Attorneys at Peter Angelos Law Fight for Victims of Medical Malpractice

Hospital visits in the week following DST can have significantly higher risks of human error due to the biological impact DST has on our natural circadian rhythms. If you or someone you know was a victim of medical error, do not hesitate to reach out to the medical malpractice attorneys at Peter Angelos Law today. To learn more about the work we do as Baltimore medical malpractice attorneys, click here.