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Doctors' smartphone use tied to medical malpractice

Doctors in Pennsylvania and other parts of the country are increasingly tied to their smartphones. Smartphones are very important in the health care field, as many doctors use these devices to access patients' health data. However, increased use comes with disadvantages. Many doctors are becoming distracted by their phones during surgery and other crucial times when focus is of the utmost importance. There is concern that this could lead to an increase in medical malpractice suits.

The University of Rochester Medical Center contends that excessive cell phone use among doctors is a major public health concern. It can lead to medical errors, patient harm and even death. In the past few years, there have been reported cases of medical professionals using the Internet, texting or posting to social media sites during surgery -- and causing medical errors as a result.

One example involved a 61-year-old woman who died during surgery in 2011. Her anesthesiologist was on Facebook during the surgery and failed to notice the woman's dropping oxygen levels. Her family filed a malpractice suit against the anesthesiologist.

People in all professions are practically addicted to their phones. However, many are in denial about their lack of attention. A doctor's work involves dealing with life or death situations and distractions should not be tolerated in this type of environment.

Medical malpractice and most other forms of personal injury claims are based on negligence. If it can be proven that a doctor was using his phone at an inappropriate time, and this negligence led to an injury, then a medical malpractice suit may be viable.

Source: The Bulletin, "Is your surgeon focused on you or his smartphone?" Markian Hawryluk, Feb. 2, 2015

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