Texting and checking email in OT while work can be dangerous

Health Care Comments Off

There is a growing problem in operating rooms. Distracted doctors and surgical staff are often texting or surfing the web while performing patient procedures. It’s led to medical errors and lawsuits.
A patient in Colorado who was left partly paralyzed, allegedly by a distracted doctor. The neurosurgeon made at least 10 personal calls on his cell phone during the operation. The law suit was solved under out of court settlement.

Medical professionals are expected to multitask but distracted doctors can lead to dangerous errors. Doctors, nurses and technicians text, SMS, update on Facebook and do internet shopping. Half of heart-monitor technicians text during surgery, according to a survey in Perfusion, a heart-surgery journal.

Distracted doctors could be sued for medical mistakes caused by inattentiveness. Such cases usually require expert testimony to prove the surgeon failed to properly care for the patient. Hospitals that employ distracted doctors could also face lawsuits under the legal theory of “respondent superior,” which holds an employer liable for employees’ negligence. Dr. Trevor Smith’s peer-reviewed survey of 439 medical staff was published this year in Perfusion, a medical journal about cardiopulmonary bypass surgery.
• 55% of staff who monitor heart bypass machines acknowledged to researchers that they had talked on cell phones during heart surgery.
• 50% said they had texted while in surgery.
• Perfusionists studied reported that, while in the middle of cardiopulmonary bypass surgery, they had: accessed e-mail (21%); used the internet (15.1%) and checked/posted on social networking sites (3.1%).

In operating room, long cases allow anesthesiologists, circulating nurses, as well as perfusionists to access their cell phones. Checking email, sending texts, and surfing the net, can be potential hazards to patients, when personnel need to be focused on patient monitoring. Boredom drives staff to check their phones and messaging devices.