Tuesday, April 22, 2014

We all know we shouldn't text while driving, right? Because if you are going 30 miles per hour, your car has gone 44 feet for every second you are looking down at your iPhone. Bad things can happen even at that speed.  At 60mph, you go 88 feet per second.  Imagine how much damage you can do in that situation.  But remember the guy who said, "I only text on the highway"?

Well, now comes a new set of "drivers," doctors who text or otherwise use their electronic message devices while in the operating room. They are equally irresponsible.  Check out this article by Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza on Pacific*Standard. Excerpts:

In one ongoing malpractice case in Texas over the death of a 61-year-old woman following a low-risk cardiac procedure, attorneys for her family discovered that the anesthesiologist charged with administering anesthesia and monitoring the patient’s vital signs had been on his iPad throughout the operation. In his deposition, the surgeon testified that the anesthesiologist didn’t even notice the patient’s dangerously low blood-oxygen levels until “15 or 20 minutes” after she “turned blue.”

The anesthesiologist admitted to texting, accessing websites, and reading ebooks during procedures. He claimed, though, that “even when I’m doing so, I’m always listening to the pulse ox, always checking the blood pressure, always—you know, at least every five minutes.” It seemed lost on him that five minutes is an eternity in medicine: The brain begins to die after just a few minutes without oxygen.

While throughout the 1980s, most programs banned residents from so much as studying in operating rooms or on the ward, doctors now routinely do far more distracting things in these same settings, with no possible medical justification—from tweeting to texting to posting on Facebook.  

The term “distracted doctoring” doesn’t seem adequate to describe the phenomenon of health care providers who habitually use electronic devices for non-medical purposes during appointments and procedures. These doctors, nurses, and technicians aren’t momentarily distracted: They’re deciding to interact with Facebook friends or Twitter followers instead of the patient in front of them.

Perhaps hospitals should do what our local transit system does:  They prohibit even possession of cell phones by transit drivers while in buses and rapid transit vehicles.  Because if you have it, you will use it.


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