Medical Studies

Physician Decision Fatigue

When should you schedule an appointment with your doctor or dentist? I had always thought that being one of the first appointments of the day was beneficial because the doctor’s aren’t yet tired from a long day of work. For instance, I try to schedule my dentist appointments early in the morning just for this reason (and because if I go early, it doesn’t much interrupt my work day). However, is there any evidence that earlier appointments lead to better outcomes?

A paper by Persson et al. (2019) aim to answer this question by looking at patient appointments and surgeon’s decision to operate. Using Swedish registry data from an orthopedic clinic, the authors find that:

…patients who met a surgeon toward the end of his or her work shift were 33 percentage points less likely to be scheduled for an operation compared with those who were seen first. In a logistic regression with doctor‐fixed effects and standard errors clustered at the level of the doctor, the odds of operation were estimated to decrease by 10.5% (odds ratio = 0.895, p < .001; 95% CI [0.842, 0.951]) for each additional patient appointment in the doctors’ work shift.

The authors claim this study provides evidence of decision fatigue. After a long day of blogging, however, I’m too tired to determine if this really is or is not decision fatigue.


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