Distracted Medical Professionals Are a Patient Safety Risk and result in Medical Malpractice Claims

Doctors and nurses now have access to smart phones and other gadgets that help them in their work. Doctors can refer to smart phones to easily access the Internet, or access patient data. However, the increasing use of electronic communication devices in hospitals has also meant an increasing number of distractions that could possibly harm patients. A significant number of medical malpractice claims arise out of a failure of medical professionals to closely monitor a patient’s condition. All medical malpractice attorneys have seen incidents in which a doctor who is very competent misses a change in a patient’s condition that, while easily addressed if caught early, results in catastrophic problems when left unchecked. It appears clear now that some of the incidents are likely the result of distractions caused by electronic devices.

According to this report, the risk of distractions from the use of electronic gadgets is so great that many hospitals have begun to limit their use altogether. Medical schools have also begun teaching students to focus on caring for patients, instead of relying on devices. However, the fact is that more and more medical students now are armed with devices that equip them with information that can increase patient safety. These measures have come after a number of incidents reported from around the country in which doctors, nurses, technicians and other personnel were found to be distracted using their devices for personal uses. 

In one incident, a nurse was found researching airline fares during a spinal surgery procedure. Doctors have also been found using their cell phones to have personal conversations while performing procedures. Needless to say, none of this enhances patient safety, and actually increases the risks of medical errors. The Institute of Medicine in its path breaking report To Err Is Human in 1999, found that more than 90,000 patients die every year as a result of medical errors. Hospitals have been investing in reducing medical errors, and unfortunately, electronic gadgets seem to increase those risks. 

It's not only doctors and nurses who are distracted by the use of gadgets like smart phones. One study found that close to half of all medical technicians in charge of bypass machines texted during procedures, while more than half of them talked on the cell phone during procedures. Cardiac procedures are incredibly complex and sophisticated procedures that need all personnel in the room to be focused 100%. Atlanta medical malpractice lawyers are therefore very concerned about the growing influence of cell phones, iPads, computers and other devices on concentration and attention in hospitals.

There's a fine line to draw here. There's no denying that the use of i-Pads, computers and smart phones helps increase access to patient information, and allows staff to conduct urgent research on the Internet. When computers are introduced into healthcare, it does lead to greater accuracy and reliability. However, there are also great risks when these devices are misused or abused by doctors and nurses. Hospitals that have invested in making electronic communication devices available to all medical personnel also need to invest in training these personnel to use these devices safely. There must be strict restrictions on the use of devices for personal uses inside the hospital.

The Atlanta medical malpractice lawyers at the Katz Law Firm represent persons who have been injured or families of persons who have been killed as a result of medical negligence in the metro Atlanta region and across Georgia.

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