Dangers of distracted doctoring: Part 1

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As more technological devices are used in hospitals, the level of patient care may go up in some cases, but in others may go markedly down. This is because more and more doctors are becoming distracted by the very devices that are supposed to be improving the practice of medicine and the distraction is leading to preventable medical errors.

A recent article in the New York Times looks at the phenomenon of increased gadgets in hospitals and interviews several doctors who have a take on the subject. In medicine, there is an increasing push to have patient data on hand at all times, which can help care by allowing doctors instant access to patient records, prescriptions and other information.

The downside, however, is that doctors can focus more on the device than the patient, or even use the devices for non-patient-related activities, which can cause them to make medical errors.

There were several incidents and scenarios listed in the Times piece that showed how doctors can make a mistake at the critical medical task at hand when they are distracted by their phones, iPad or other gadgets. One attorney interviewed said that he had recently settled a medical malpractice case in which a man was partially paralyzed during surgery because the neurosurgeon was distracted by making at least 10 personal calls during brain surgery.

The next post will further discuss this issue.

Source: New York Times, “As Doctors Use More Devices, Potential for Distraction Grows,” Matt Richtel, Dec. 14, 2011

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