Beebe and O'Neil

Social media use by hospital staff increases risk of negligence

Doctors in Connecticut and around the country  take an oath to protect the safety, health, and privacy of their patients. However, recent studies have found that browsing the Internet, texting, and other similar behaviors increasingly distract doctors and other professionals while they are supposed to be performing surgical operations. These distractions can mean serious risks to a patient’s health and privacy. 

According to a survey conducted by a periodical for heart bypass machine technicians, 56 percent of those that took the survey admitted that they frequently used their cellphone during a procedure. Only 42 percent stated that cellphone conversation was always hazardous to patients in surgery and just 52 percent of respondents agreed that texting during surgery was risky behavior.

It is very concerning that many hospital workers do not recognize the fact that browsing the Internet or chatting with someone via text while they are in an operating room is dangerous. It is even more upsetting that people still engage in these behaviors, even though they know it is risky. When doctors use their phones and other electronic devices for non-medical purposes during an operation or while they should be monitoring a patient, they are no longer focused on the safety and health of the patient. This “distracted doctoring” has been the cause of many serious mistakes being made in the operating room. 

Another major concern is when doctors post a patient’s personal information on a social media website. According to testimony in one lawsuit, an anesthesiologist posted a photograph of his patient’s vital signs during an operation on his Facebook page, violating the patient’s privacy as well as his oath to protect his patient. 

Clearly, negligence due to the use of electronic devices and social media usage is unacceptable. It puts patients at risk of sustaining further injury, violates the privacy that patients, and puts them at the risk of a serious injury due to the doctor’s distracted state of mind. 

If you believe that a doctor used a distracting electronic device during surgery or was negligent in your care, there may be grounds to pursue a medical malpractice claim. Doctors and hospitals should be held accountable when preventable errors are made during a procedure. 

Source: Pacific Standard, "Treat, Don’t Tweet: The Dangerous Rise of Social Media in the Operating Room," Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza, April 16, 2014

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