The Dangerous Rise of Social Media in the Operating Room

Apparently, some physicians use social media in the operating room. Doesn’t sound like a good idea, does it?

A recent survey suggested that most doctors and nurses understand the significant safety issues associated with the use of cell phones during surgery. However, that did not stop them from pulling out the distracting devices.

Social media seems to be taking over our daily lives at increasingly alarming rates. In the United States 73 percent of online adults are active on social media sites, 90 percent of those aged 18 to 29, and 78 percent of adults 30 to 49.

On average, social media users aged 18 to 34 spend nearly four hours every day on sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. Those aged 35 to 49 spend three hours daily on social media.

This is really becoming a problem, especially in operating rooms and emergency rooms where the nurses, technicians and doctors are supposed to be paying attention to their patients, not their laptop or iPhone.

Distracted doctoring is a term used to describe physician negligence involving electronic devices. Today, more and more doctors are doing distracting things with no possible medical justification for it – examples include tweeting to texting to posting on Facebook. Simply put: physicians should be attentive. If they are texting, tweeting, or reading, they are not paying attention.

How did this happen?

In a recent New York Times article, distracted doctoring was discussed. “The problem is that while computers, smart phones, and other devices can enhance communication among medical professionals, improve accuracy of medical records, and help avoid errors, they divert clinicians’ eyes and minds from the patient.”

Also, a survey published stated that technicians who operate bypass machines used in heart surgery found that 56 percent of respondents admitted to using a cell phone during procedures. While 78 percent said, “that cell phone use posed a risk to patients, only 42 percent of respondents agreed that having a cell phone conversation during surgery was always unsafe and just 52 percent said that texting during surgery was not safe.”

Think about this: A surgeon addicted to alcohol or an illegal drug wouldn’t be allowed to operate while drunk – so why are physicians addicted to their iPhones and technicians given to texting still allowed in the operating room? That’s something to think about.

These electronic devices have been linked to reduced medical errors, but serious problems do arise when healthcare providers stray from their patient to check Facebook or text a friend.

Some hospitals are beginning to curtail such activity and medical schools are trying to remind students to retain focus on the patients. One hospital has made all operating rooms “quiet zones” and banned any activity that is not related to patient care.

If you or a family member has been injured or harmed because your doctor or other medical professional was too busy on his or her iPhone to pay attention to you, it is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney who will fight to protect your legal rights.


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