Are Cellphones Causing Doctor Distraction?

On Behalf of | Nov 14, 2017 | Medical Malpractice

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Cell phones are significant distractions that can cause physicians to make serious medical errors. Doctors who are distracted while examining or treating a patient can miss vital information, make critical mistakes, and put patient health and safety in jeopardy. Technological distractions are partially responsible for the 251,000 fatalities caused by medical errors each year yet many hospitals and healthcare facilities do not have formal policies in place barring their use while treating patients.

Medical Errors are a Leading Cause of Death

Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. Only heart disease and cancer have higher fatality rates. It is estimated that more than 700 preventable deaths per day are caused by adverse drug events, IV and catheter-related infections, surgical site infections, falls and immobilization, and adverse events during childbirth.

Distraction during any medical procedure increases the risk of potentially fatal errors. Texting, talking, or browsing the internet can cause physicians to lose focus, ignore established safety protocols, and make mistakes that can have deadly consequences. 

Few Prohibitions on Cell Phones in Medical Settings

Few hospitals have formal policies banning the use of cell phones in emergency rooms, surgical theaters, or examination rooms. In fact, some physicians, nurses, anesthesiologists, etc. argue that smartphones provide access to information that can be used to help treat patients and respond to critical events. While this is true, the reality is that smartphones also provide access to distractions including news sites, financial accounts, social media, etc. Often, it is not until after an adverse event occurs that devices are reviewed to determine what information/sites the healthcare provider visits while treating patients.

Privacy and Protection at Risk     

It is estimated that as many as 14% of physicians store patient data on their personal cell phone. A further 60% transmit data via text messages. Nationwide, it’s estimated that as many as 25 million physicians have downloaded and utilize medical apps that are infected with malware. This widespread dissemination of information poses a significant threat to record safety and exposes records to potential tampering. 

Chicago medical malpractice attorneys can hold physicians, nurses, and other healthcare workers liable for the injuries and wrongful deaths caused by distractions including cell phone usage. When such negligence leads to misdiagnoses, improper treatment, or adverse medical events, individuals can pursue medical malpractice claims to help them recover from their injuries or compensate them for the wrongful deaths that occur. 


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