Distracted Doctoring: Medical Professionals Texting During Surgery

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for cellphone.jpgThe dangers of driving and texting are well known, and well reported. But what about texting during surgery?

Among the many causes of surgical error, the personal use of tablets and cell phones in the operating room is a relatively new phenomenon. The term for this is “distracted doctoring.” But it may be growing, just as the use of social media and cell phones has exploded outside operating rooms by the U.S. population as a whole.

Survey Finds Cell Phone Use in Operating Rooms

In 2010, over 400 perfusionists – medical professionals who operate bypass machines during heart surgery – were surveyed regarding their use of cell phones and other electronic devices during procedures. The results are alarming:

• 55.6 percent of respondents said they had used a cell phone during a cardiopulmonary bypass

• 49.2 percent admitted to sending text messages during a procedure

• For those who had smartphones, 21 percent acknowledged accessing their email, 15 percent surfing the Internet, and 3 percent checked social media while working in the OR

This same group apparently had reservations about this dangerous practice. Almost eight out of 10 (78.3 percent) said they were concerned about cell phone use putting surgical patients at risk.

It’s been said that the use of smartphones and social media can be an addiction. Some healthcare professionals may not be immune to their temptations, potentially giving way to a rise in medical errors due to distracted doctoring. While unconfirmed, allegations have surfaced of Joan Rivers’ physician using a cell phone while she was sedated for the procedure during which she died in September 2014.

Dangers are always present during surgery, but when doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professions take unnecessary risks, preventable errors made in the operating room can lead to a patient’s death. If you suspect a family member died due to a doctor’s mistake, you may want to consult an attorney who is experienced in handling matters of medical malpractice.

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