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Are electronic devices causing doctor errors?

Distracted driving causes many fatalities every year, but a new survey suggests that distracted doctors may also be putting their patient's lives at risk.

In recent years, more doctors' offices and hospitals have turned to portable electronic devices to store patient records. In addition to being more efficient, it can also help prevent doctor errors. But these new devices have shown to be distracting for nurses, doctors and other hospital staff, and may have been the cause of some surgical mistakes.

In 2010, more than 400 medical technicians were surveyed, and nearly half of them admitted to texting while performing a cardiopulmonary bypass. Half of them also admitted to using a cell phone. Some also admitted to checking their email and using the internet.

Of those same medical technicians, about 80 percent said that cell phone use could be potentially risky for patients. Many also thought that texting during a procedure was unsafe.

One doctor with the University of Rochester Medical Center believes distracted doctors could be putting people in danger. He believes the problem is not getting any better, and won't until people are educated about the potential dangers of distracted doctoring.

Although it seems like the whole world is consumed by electronic devices, most people would hold doctors to a different standard. Doctors have an obligation to give the best care to their patients. If a device is preventing them from doing so, problems can arise.

A doctor's focus needs to remain on the patient, especially in critical moments. Although these portable electronic devices appear to be helpful for those in the medical community, it seems that those using them may need to be reminded how to use them responsibly.

Source: AARP, "Texting During Surgery?! The Risks of 'Distracted Doctoring'," Candy Sagon, Dec. 15, 2011

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