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Devices Help Advance Medicine, Yet Distract Medical Professionals

Devices Help Advance Medicine, Yet Distract Medical ProfessionalsA recent New York Times article discussed how the use of devices – computers, smartphones, etc. – in hospitals and doctor offices is not only providing immediate access to patient data, drug information, etc., but may also be contributing to medical errors. The doctors and nurses may be putting too much focus on the equipment and not enough on the patient.

And sometimes these devices, unfortunately, are not being used for professional reasons. The article cites several examples, including a nurse checking airfares during surgery. What’s more, a poll shows that half of technicians running bypass machines had admitted texting during a procedure.

This has ignited a serious conversation at hospitals and medical schools about the problem of “distracted doctoring.” As a result, some hospitals have begun limiting the use of devices in critical settings, while schools have started reminding medical students to focus on patients instead of gadgets.

Dr. Peter J. Papadakos, an anesthesiologist and director of critical care at the University of Rochester Medical Center in upstate New York, is cited in the article as seeing nurses, doctors and other staff members glued to their phones, computers and iPads. “You justify carrying devices around the hospital to do medical records,” he said. “But you can surf the Internet or do Facebook, and sometimes, for whatever reason, Facebook is more tempting.”

He goes on to say: “My gut feeling is lives are in danger”. In fact, Dr. Papadakos published an article on “electronic distraction” in Anesthesiology News. “We’re not educating people about the problem, and it’s getting worse.”

Although it’s difficult to quantify the impact that distracted doctoring has on patient care, there have been cases where the negative consequences are fairly clear. For example, a patient was left partly paralyzed after surgery. According to the lawyer representing the patient, the neurosurgeon was distracted during the operation, using a wireless headset to talk on his cell phone. Records showed he was talking to family and business associations. The case was settled before a lawsuit was filed.

Devices have a great capacity to reduce risk,” Dr. Charles G. Prober, senior associate dean for medical education at Stanford Medical School, said. “But the last thing we want to see, and what is happening in some cases now, is the computer coming between the patient and his doctor.”

Axis Insurance Services, LLC works with physicians and surgeons all over the Northeast, helping them protect themselves and their practice against risk. Give us a call at (877) 787-5258.

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Blogged on: April 17, 2012 by Mike Smith
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