Epilepsy Talk

Doctors Distracted by Electronic Devices… | December 15, 2020

Do you know what happens during surgery? Cut…open…correct…sew. Maybe some background music. Hip if the doctor likes that. Or classical.

Well, not exactly.

You might be surprised. Or horrified to learn the truth.

How about your technician who’s running the bypass machine texting during the procedure…

Or the nurse checking airfares…

And your neurosurgeon chatting away on a personal phone call?

That’s right. Electronic devices have not only taken over our culture. They’ve taken over the operating room!

While some medical schools are teaching would-be doctors to use electronic devices – hopefully for diagnostic purposes – other medical staff prefer to check eBay.

Various high-profile cases have illustrated the deadly effects that doctor distraction can have.

The most famous case happened in Texas where a woman died after her oxygen levels fell during surgery. The anesthesiologist, who failed to notice the issue for 20 minutes, was accused of emailing and texting during the procedure.

In 2014, comedian Joan Rivers passed away due to complications during a throat surgery. During the operation, one doctor took cell phone photos of the comedian. Investigators didn’t find that this behavior directly caused the complications, but it may have contributed to the final outcome.

In another case, a resident began using her phone to enter an order to discontinue an inpatient’s blood-thinner order. In the middle of doing that, the resident was distracted by a text message from a friend asking about plans for an upcoming party.

She never finished entering the order, and the patient later required open-heart surgery to remove blood filling the sac around his heart.

It’s a problem. And an epidemic.

One might say that technology rules. In this age and era, doctors are almost born with cell phones in their hands. Texting, talking, searching, researching, buying, selling, planning and so on. They’re also expected to be available 24/7.

That’s part of the problem. And, in part, that explains “distracted doctoring”.

While distraction is particularly concerning in the operating room, emergency room, and critical care areas, it can impact all healthcare settings — including the office practice.

Personal electronic devices can create a digital distraction so engrossing that it consumes awareness, potentially preventing healthcare providers from focusing on the primary task at hand — caring for and interacting with patients.

The consequences can be devastating.

Attending to a patient’s complex care needs is a high-risk activity that requires undivided attention presence in the moment to ensure the safety and protection of others.

The patient is in the doctor’s hands. Literally and figuratively.

They have put their faith and trust into the medical professional’s experience and expertise. Hands that may hold the power of life or death.

Not whether the cell phone has an incoming text.

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  1. I worked in hospital field. The anesthesiologist was not tested if he was drunk. He stuck it in GI tube, they soon pulled it out, pulled it out and d/ ced the surgery.
    I worked in Nuero/Cardo. I did a lot work in the Cath. Lab. You first set up the lab. Check if the Cardiologist is coming. Set the patient up, pray no drank!

    Neurology I did not have that!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Toni Robison — December 15, 2020 @ 11:49 AM

  2. My step-father once said that the most important person in the OR is the anesthesiologist . He or she can kill you or save you.

    Scary thought. Especially when they run amok.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — December 15, 2020 @ 12:17 PM

  3. Reblogged this on Disablities & all sorts of Mental Health Issues.


    Comment by Kenneth Ratcliffe — December 15, 2020 @ 12:26 PM

  4. Then I guess I’m one of the lucky ones. Everything went smoothly for me.

    I did hear them cracking jokes but it’s probably what I would do while I’m part of a 5 1/2 hour surgery. My epileptologist and I were friends as well as doctor/patient so I knew he was making sure I was doing OK and I’ll be forever grateful for the way my surgeon handled my temporal lobectomy before, during and after the surgery.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Ed Lugge — December 15, 2020 @ 1:47 PM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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