Featured News 2018 The Dangers of Distracted Doctoring

The Dangers of Distracted Doctoring

Not all cases of medical malpractice are as clear-cut as those that involve claims of negligence or misdiagnosis. Some, in fact, are side-effects of situations which might never have caused a medical disaster before. New causes for medical mistakes result in new claims made in medical malpractice lawsuits. Such is the case for those hospitals and doctor's offices that have implemented new technologies—both medical and non-medical—into their practice.

The number of smartphones, computer systems, and other devices that have been added to the operating rooms throughout the country has spiked in recent years. The primary reason for the mass technological update is often the physician's concern with staying current. Offices use technology to simplify some of the administration that goes hand-in-hand with medical care in the 21st century (i.e. inputting medical records, tracking medical histories, accessing patient data, and referencing relevant medical information and case studies).

From 2012 to 2015, the number of physicians using smartphones for professional purposes rose from 68 to 84 percent. More than 80 percent of doctors carry their phones with them while they work.

Unfortunately, the updates made to make medical care more convenient for patients and professionals could be the same ones that lead to cases of serious medical malpractice. Although the intent behind updating patient and physician systems is pure at heart, doctors cannot reason their way out of the fact that these technologies have actually led to more distraction than good in some cases.

More Screens Take Doctors' Eyes Off the Patient

Studies have shown that new technological devices in doctor's offices, hospitals, and operating rooms are not always used for the sole purpose of carrying out medical procedures. A recent article reports that "distracted doctoring" is the newest problem challenging the medical field.

Thanks to the addition of new devices being added to medical rooms, more incidents of distraction have infiltrated the field, including:
  • Texting while operating medical testing machinery
  • Taking personal calls during routine medical procedures
  • Checking the Internet during surgery downtimes

The problem has caught the attention of outlets reporting on medical news in magazines, news reports, and the like. The cardio-pulmonary bypass surgery journal, Perfusion, even conducted a peer-reviewed survey on the issue by turning to more than 400 medical technicians. It found that 55 percent of the technicians in charge of monitoring bypass machines are guilty of using their cellphones during heart surgery. When this type of distraction is present, there is no telling just how disastrous the mistakes could be.

The potential risks of technological distractions continue to increase as more and more of the devices make their way into operating rooms and physician's offices. It is not only at the time of surgery that a distracted medical technician or surgeon could present harm to the patient. The potential for danger exists even during a standard medical check-up or doctor's visit. The presence of multiple screens could blind a doctor to the symptoms right in front of him/her.

No matter how they begin, all cases of medical malpractice need to be addressed before the public. It does not matter that a doctor, nurse, or surgeon's original intent may have been to supplement the services they provide to patients. The bottom line is that the irresponsible use of devices is what ultimately caused their distraction—even negligence—and hence, severe harm for the patient.

While there is no way to track the exact number of individuals who have been harmed by distracted doctoring, the instance of even one case is enough to bring the problem to light. Medical mistakes and procedural errors are not like other mistakes; they often have a greater potential to harm people other than the one committing the mistake. Therefore, it is necessary to be proactive in identifying and addressing instances of potential medical malpractice. Only in this way can we ensure that serious injuries, debilitating diseases, and wrongful death cases do not continue to occur at increasing rates.

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