Are Devices Contributing to Medical Errors?

Last week, the NY Times ran a front page article on the relationship between mobile devices such as smart phones, computers, and other electronic devices and medical errors. While the proliferation of such devices has allowed physicians to more readily access important data such as a patient’s medical record, it also may lead to distraction and medical errors. As one physician who was interviewed for the story noted, “You walk around the hospital, and what you see is not funny,” said Dr. Peter J. Papadakos, an anesthesiologist and director of critical care at the University of Rochester Medical Center in upstate New York, who added that he had seen nurses, doctors and other staff members glued to their phones, computers and iPads.
“You justify carrying devices around the hospital to do medical records,” he said. “But you can surf the Internet or do Facebook, and sometimes, for whatever reason, Facebook is more tempting.”
“My gut feeling is lives are in danger,” said Dr. Papadakos, who recently published an article on “electronic distraction” in Anesthesiology News, a journal. “We’re not educating people about the problem, and it’s getting worse.”
The Times article refers to the pheonomenon as “distracted doctoring”. As with so many technological advancements, there are negative aspects to such improvements as well. Distraction is perhaps the most obvious and most dangerous. However, with improved technology, there is a risk of a decrease in real, human communication between the healthcare provider and the patient. This can lead to other problems including medical errors as well.