Are cellphones adding to the number of surgical errors?

When Pennsylvania residents go under the knife for simple procedures or emergency surgeries, they are ultimately trusting the doctors in the operating room with their lives. Patients often expect a procedure to go smoothly, followed by a reasonable recovery period. From time to time, surgical accidents do occur, and they can range from surgical tools being left inside a patient, to infections that are acquired during a surgical procedure.

A recent article suggests that technology – such as a smartphone – may actually be contributing to surgical errors. While smartphones allow for greater communication between health care providers, there are risks that go hand-in-hand with smartphone use in the medical industry. For example, bacteria and viruses on cellphones pose a risk to patients by increasing the risk of infection. In addition, receiving and sending data via a smartphone may also hamper with medical equipment.

A big risk factor with the use of smartphones in the operating room is that the devices have the potential to take a doctor’s attention away from a surgical procedure. According to the ECRI Institute, smartphones are listed as one of the top 10 hazards in the medical industry, because they cause distractions.

In fact, the investigation involving the death of comedian Joan Rivers has revealed that the director of the clinic took a photo of the surgeon who was performing the procedure – along with Rivers – who was sedated when the photo was taken.

There are things medical providers can do to prevent surgical errors – like making sure all tools are accounted for after a procedure, and keeping potential distractions to a minimum. For those who have fallen victim to a surgical error, or any other type of medical malpractice, it may be beneficial to speak with a personal injury attorney.

Source: The Bulletin, “Is your surgeon focused on you or his smartphone?” Markian Hawryluk, Feb. 2, 2015