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Was your surgeon distracted by their phone?

On Behalf of | Aug 22, 2021 | Surgical Errors

These days, many people are never out of reach of their cell phones. However, if you’re undergoing surgery, you probably aren’t comfortable with the thought that any of the medical professionals in the operating room (OR) could be distracted by their phones while you’re under the knife.

In 2016, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) issued a statement on “Distractions in the Operating Room” that addressed the use of phones and other mobile technology. While acknowledging that phones and other handheld devices cannot practically be banned from ORs, they provided some guidelines to prevent their “undisciplined” use.

Protocols recommended by the ACS for phone use in the OR

Among the guidelines provided by the ACS were the following:

  • Phones should not interfere with monitoring or other technological devices necessary for patient care.
  • Personnel should only use them for urgent communications.
  • Phones should be set to send incoming calls to voicemail, the OR desk or some other location.
  • Ring tones and other alerts should be silenced.
  • No devices should violate the sterilization protocols for the room.
  • They should not be used in any way that violates patient privacy.

Doctors and other medical professionals have faced legal action for taking photos of patients while they were unconscious.

Individual facilities typically set their own rules

Hospitals and other medical facilities have their own regulations regarding the presence of cellphones and other electronic devices in an OR. One OR nurse supervisor found that deciding to allow her nurses to bring their phones into the OR but establishing rules for their use was better than requiring them to keep their phones in their lockers.

She said this prevented her nurses from running to their lockers at every opportunity to check their phones. It also curbed some of the resentment her nurses felt that doctors were allowed to have their phones on them in the OR while they weren’t.

If something goes wrong during surgery that you believe was preventable, part of a possible medical malpractice claim would include determining whether the surgeon or anyone else was distracted by their phone. If you saw your doctor using their phone at other times rather than focusing on you, that can certainly provide you with adequate cause to raise the question. That’s just one reason why it’s wise to have experienced legal guidance if you believe you have a malpractice claim.

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