You probably wouldn’t appreciate your hair stylist double booking you with another client and trying to resolve the issue by moving back and forth from chair to chair, working on both haircuts at the same time. How would you feel about it if your surgeon did essentially the same thing while you were under anesthesia, moving from one operating room to the next?
That’s exactly what’s happening, but it isn’t clear how often or even how much patients are being told when it does. The American College of Surgeons says the practice is “inappropriate,” and Medicare says it won’t pay for surgeries that are double booked. Opponents of the practice say that hospitals that do it, including Massachusetts General, are motivated by greed to squeeze more money out of their operating rooms and that patients are seldom informed—or given hasty notice as they’re being wheeled into the operating room.
Defenders of these “concurrent” surgeries say that the practice cuts down the wait time for patients, improves access to specialists and allows trainees to hone their skills.
Those who aren’t quite so enamored of the procedure consider the practice ethically and medically unsound, because the specialist surgeon is splitting his or her focus—which means that neither patient may get the benefit of the doctor’s full attention. In addition, if there’s a sudden emergency with one patient, the surgeon could be forced to abandon the care of the other patient entirely to trainees while he or she handles the emergency.
In a groundbreaking motion, the ACS has reached out to 20 major hospitals with guidelines for how concurrent surgeries are to be performed, with a heavy focus on making sure that the hospitals—not surgeons—decide what parts of surgery are critical and demand the primary surgeon’s full attention.
There’s also a heavy focus on improving informed consent policies in order to keep doctors from telling patients about the double booking when they’re heading into the OR and not really in a position to consider their choices. It also recommends that patients be clearly informed that the surgeon would actually be out of the operating room at times, rather than led to believe that he or she would be standing by and supervising.
If you believe that you were injured during surgery because a concurrent procedure was being performed and your surgeon’s attention was divided, consider consulting an attorney to discuss your case.
Source: BioEdge, “US Senate committee wants to ban “concurrent surgeries”,” Michael Cook, Dec. 09, 2016