Dan O’Connor writes in the trade journal “Outpatient Surgery,” about the distracting personal electronic devices in the operating room. He says that more and more doctors and staff are surfing the web and are “glued to their gizmos and gadgets, oblivious to the patient lying before them.”
He is partly correct. More and more doctors and staff are horribly distracted in the operating room and in other clinical areas. They are distracted by the computers installed to create digital medical records. This is the ultimate distraction, one that can ostensibly be justified. You see, it’s sort of OK in some people’s minds to ignore patients because they are struggling to enter all of the data in to the hospital computer. Walk in to any operating room with electronic medical record keeping and the circulating nurse will have his/her back to the patient for almost the entire case, frantically typing, hoping to complete the operating room record prior to the case’s conclusion. This is the new and dangerous distraction introduced into the clinical area that has left patients feeling more abandoned than ever. This is the new and dangerous distraction that serves as a justification for nurses’ absence from the patient’s bedside and their lack of patient contact.
The electronic medical records industry has bought a lot of advertising and passed a lot of money around. Their lobbyist and mouthpiece in the beginning was Newt Gingrich. This industry has been very effective in selling their product and fending off the naysayers. I have talked about the disaster of the electronic medical record in the operating room in other blogs. The idea that this technology’s introduction to the operating room is somehow not distracting to patient care and “personal electronic medical devices” are, strikes me as strange and incredibly inconsistent.
We do not have computers in our operating rooms at the Surgery Center of Oklahoma. We do not keep electronic medical records.
Don’t plan to.
G. Keith Smith, M.D.