The dangers of texting while driving are well publicized today. But what about the dangers of texting while operating on a patient? Believe it or not, this may be a growing form of medical malpractice.
An article published recently in The Atlantic entitled, “Texting from the Operating Room,” highlights the rise in incidents involving medical professionals using their cell phones and tablets while tending to patients.
In one case, a doctor was investigated for allegedly using a cell phone to take pictures of an operation on the comedian, Joan Rivers. The comedian suffered complications from the surgery, went into cardiac arrest and later died. (There was not a definitive connection tied to the cell phone use as a cause of death, however.)
Some hospitals are addressing the issue. A trend is developing to codify uniform rules to limit cell phone and other personal device use by medical professionals while in the hospital and treating patients.
Doctors and nurses have argued that cell phones can be a valuable resource while they are on the run and moving from one room to another. They claim they can view medical records and critically important information on cell phones without having to stop and use a stationary computer.
The problem is that, unless medical personnel are being videotaped and monitored at all times, there is no way to accurately track what they are using the cell phones to do. Instead of using the phones for professional reasons, a doctor or nurse could be using it to text a friend or family member or check on a Facebook page.
As a law firm that focuses on medical malpractice cases, we believe this is a disturbing and dangerous trend that has to be addressed by New York hospitals as soon as possible.
Distracting Technology Can Put Patients At Risk
Misuse of distracting technology can put patients at risk. In 2011, for example, a Texas anesthesiologist was sued due to the death of a patient.
The patient’s family alleged that the anesthesiologist had been using his cell phone to send text messages and e-mails while monitoring the patient. The family claimed that he did not notice that the patient’s oxygen levels had dropped for more than 20 minutes.
(However, there was never any definitive finding of whether the doctor’s actions led to the patient’s death. The case settled before going to trial.)
Currently, no federal regulations address this matter, and no health care industry standards exist which control the use of cell phones in healthcare facilities or in operating rooms.
However, medical groups such as the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) are warning about the dangers of using cell phones in the operating room.
Also, hospitals such as the University of Rochester Medical Center are forbidding their staff to use phones for any personal matters while at any clinical station – not only while in operating rooms. These hospitals are beginning to see the use of cell phones as a major concern. They are leading the effort to craft a clear, safe approach to this issue.
Distractions Can Go Beyond Technology
Distracted doctoring can also be due to other factors. The AAOS has identified seven other forms of distractions that doctors and healthcare workers have to endure beyond technology:
Noise – Noise is an ever-present problem in medical settings. It can distract doctors and nurses when they are performing tasks and caring for patients. Noise created by surgical power instruments, monitoring equipment, ventilation equipment and conversation can keep attention from being placed on the task at hand and caring for patients.
Fatigue – Fatigue is always a concern in the healthcare industry. It can decrease performance and impair a medical professional’s ability to concentrate.
Task saturation – Information overload and multi-tasking is another danger that physicians and nurses face when operating and treating patients. When doctors or nurses are overloaded with tasks to perform, it impairs their concentration and performance. Focusing on single tasks and following proper procedure is the most effective manner of handling these surgical and treatment tasks.
Continuation bias – Being task and goal-oriented, medical team members may form a type of “tunnel vision.” They may fail to pick up on other details that should be noticed and which may play a key role in a patient’s treatment.
Task repetition – Focusing on repetitive or “busy” tasks not related to a medical procedure, such as medical record keeping, can impair medical team members’ focus and lead to costly errors.
Team member impairment – When medical professionals treat patients while under the influence of alcohol or illegal substances or while dealing with the side effects of medication can create an extremely dangerous situation.
Disruptive behavior – Distracting or abusive behavior, whether verbal, emotional or physical, is also a major concern. Such conduct can increase the stress levels of team members and decrease performance, leading to errors.
Your Right To Take Action About Dangerous Doctor Behavior
Each year, the New York Board for Professional Medical Conduct receives thousands of medical complaints. In fact, the Board has received no less than 6,700 complaints each year since 2009 and fielded almost 10,000 in a single recent year.
In New York, you have a right to file a complaint about healthcare workers if you feel you have not received proper care or believe that the medical professional in charge of your treatment violated a rule of professional conduct.
If you have been injured due to a medical professional’s misconduct or error, you also have the right to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
The National Practitioner Data Bank has issued a report citing statistics involving medical malpractice payments and adverse action reports. As you can see in the report, New York has the highest number of medical malpractice payments in the country.
Filing a lawsuit in a medical malpractice case in New York can be an extremely complicated process. It should be handled by a medical malpractice attorney who has experience in handling such claims.
If you or anyone you know has been injured by a medical professional, please consider your options carefully and contact our firm for a free consultation.
At Powers & Santola, LLP, our Syracuse and Albany medical malpractice attorneys have been helping injured patients to recover financial compensation for their injuries since 1987. We have the background and skill that is needed to follow through on a claim and seek the recovery you deserve for a medical professional’s negligence in Albany, Syracuse or elsewhere in the state of New York.
Simply contact us today to get started.