Jan 072012

Neurosurgeons making personal calls during brain surgery; intensivists shopping Amazon in the ICU; residents zoning out on rounds to check Facebook. Doctors aren't innocent of indulging the national obsession with electronic devices while at work, and our foibles are exposed here in a fussbudget New York Times "trend" piece.

There's no real data to support the assertions, and everyone interviewed agrees that no one knows the real impact of "distracted doctoring." And between pagers, beeping monitors, interrupting nurses and consultants, and sudden changes in patients' clinical condition, medicine has always been a multi-tasking, attention-fragmenting endeavor.

Still, if research shows you can't drive while texting, can you plausibly text-and-doctor at peak performance? According to the piece, academic centers are taking note of this potential quality issue (and probably the liability that may ensue from bad outcomes from distracted docs), and issuing the predictable internal guidelines, directives, etc.

Disclosure: I read this story online, at work.

Clinical Takeaway: Although this piece is a bit overwrought, it could prove to be an important wakeup call (consider that texting-and-driving was considered socially acceptable behavior, until more than a few people got killed).

"As Doctors Use More Devices, Potential for Distraction Grows," Matt Richtel, New York Times, December 14, 2011.

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Don’t text-and-doctor, authorities warn (NYT)