Prochaska, Howell & Prochaska LLC

Social Media Use by Physicians Causes Distracted Doctoring


Wichita, KS -- (ReleaseWire) -- 01/22/2015 --The disturbing trend of medical professionals using cell phones and other mobile devices while working has lead to a deterioration in patient care. There have been many instances where medical malpractice was caused by physicians making phone calls, texting, and/or using social media while administering care to patients.

"Modern medicine is driven by data, so hospitals actually encourage the use of technology and hand-held devices," says Bradley J. Prochaska, medical malpractice attorney of Prochaska, Howell & Prochaska. "Unfortunately, most of the devices are personal iPhones or tablets, so physicians are also receiving personal messages. In matters of life and death these distractions can have serious consequences."

The instances where the computer screen comes between doctor and patient has been referred to as "distracted doctoring." In a study published in 2010, over 50 percent of the surveyed medical technicians who operate heart-lung machines admitted to using their cell phones while working. Fifty-percent also confessed to texting during procedures, while another 20 percent read non-work related emails.

"Time is of the essence for patients in surgery or who need critical care. They need to be monitored at all times," says Prochaska. "After a few minutes without oxygen the brain starts to die. This can be missed while a physician is reading a text, ebook, or Facebook message."

A woman died in Texas during a routine cardiac procedure, because her anesthesiologist had been texting, reading ebooks, and looking at websites. As a result, he missed monitoring her vital signs. Another medical malpractice case involved the paralysis of a patient during an operation. His neurosurgeon was making personal phone calls throughout the entire procedure.

"Doctors defend their use of handheld devices, but far too many are used for personal communication," says Prochaska. "The Hippocratic Oath states that a physician must be mentally present during patient care. However, electronic devices distract them from their jobs, which is saving lives."