An alarming new element has come to light in an ongoing malpractice case in Texas, where a 61-year-old woman died during a low-risk cardiac procedure. It was discovered that the anesthesiologist in charge of monitoring the woman’s vital signs had been on his iPad during the entire procedure.
The doctor stated in his deposition that he hadn’t noticed the patient’s low blood-oxygen levels until “15 or 20 minutes” after she “turned blue.” The doctor admits that, though he regularly engages in activities like texting, surfing the web, and reading ebooks during procedures, he would still check the patient’s vital signs about every five minutes- completely disregarding the knowledge that a brain can die without oxygen within just a few minutes.
The use of social media has become prevalent enough that we are largely unable to regulate our usage habits. 73 percent of adults in the U.S. have active social media accounts, and of that demographic, users age 18-34 ( the majority) spend about 4 hours a day on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Dr. Papadakos, an anesthesiologist affiliated with University of Rochester, is leading a study on “distracted doctoring,” which is a term used to describe physician negligence related to electronics.
A common defense for distracted doctoring is that doctors and nurses use electronic devices to keep and access medical information. However, this use is not protected under HIPAA, so electronics should never be used for communicating with or about patients. Regardless, a device being used for any reason not relevant to the patient is never admissible.
In 2011, a meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists discovered disturbing data related to distracted doctoring. One presentation showed nurses, anesthetists, and residents being distracted by something 54 percent of the time, even if they were being watched. Even more troubling, what was distracting them was almost always “pleasure cruises” on the internet.
Another study published in a journal for perfusionists found that, while majority of physicians surveyed said that cell phone use during surgery was unsafe, majority of physicians still admitted to engaging in cell phone use performing medical procedures.
Another malpractice attorney in Colorado found in a case that a neurosurgeon who paralyzed a patient during surgery made no less than 10 phone calls during the procedure. An administrative director in an Oregon hospital admits to reprimanding a nurse caught checking airfares on a computer in the operating room. The truth is, the term “distracted doctoring” is a huge understatement for the phenomenon of physicians habitually using electronics during medical appointments and procedures.
The doctors and nurses are not simply “distracted,” rather, they are choosing to interact with friends on Facebook and Twitter rather than the patient they should be focused on. Dr. Papadakos and others argue that smart devices and social media can be addictive, and that further studies need to be performed to understand this phenomenon. Regardless of if they are addictive, health care providers should understand their responsibility and obligation to their patients and health institution.
When the Standard of Care fails, and it results in severe injuries for the victims by healthcare professionals, schedule a consultation with the best medical malpractice law firm.