It is not the first concern most patients think of when faced with medical procedures. However, distraction can be just as deadly in a medical setting as it can be behind the wheel of a car. In recent years, the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority has analyzed over a thousand reports that could be attributed to distraction in a medical setting. Of the 1,015 reports analyzed, thirteen cases resulted in patient harm and forty reports mention distractions associated with computers, phones, or other technology that led to medical errors. In an age when technology should be helping medical professionals provide better care, its ability to distract can sometimes contribute to medical malpractice.
Precautions You Can Take to Avoid Distractions in a Medical Setting
Although you do relinquish a certain amount of control in a medical setting, counting on your doctors, nurses and other medical staff for your care, there are some steps you can take to avoid the types of distraction that can lead to medical errors.
- When talking with your doctor, nurse, or other healthcare professional, turn off all electronic devices, such as cell phones and the television.
- Ask medical professionals who have been interrupted during your care to reconfirm your identity and to repeat what they were saying before the interruption.
- Ask medical professionals to repeat medications and their doses before administering them to you.
- Request that your doctor or nurse provide a written copy of your healthcare plan.
- Ask any healthcare worker who escorts you to testing or treatment or who draws your blood for testing to confirm your identity and the reason for the test or treatment.
- Ask medical professionals to confirm your identity before providing treatment of any kind. This is especially important during shift changes for nurses and staff.
- Never be afraid to insist on the attention of your doctors and nurses while they are treating you. They should not be distracted by other healthcare workers, pagers, televisions or other devices. They owe you and your medical care their full attention.
- Know the names of the medical professionals involved with your care, especially your treating physician, and how to contact them when you have questions.
As a patient you cannot prevent all possible medical errors, but you can take steps to alleviate distractions during your medical care. Be your own advocate or enlist a trusted family member to help you, but understand that the medical professionals you have entrusted with your care owe you a duty of care. When they fail to fulfill their duty, they can and should be held liable for their mistakes. Our experienced medical malpractice lawyers can help you understand your options for legal recourse and pursue legal action.