The digital age has created a host of distractions. Yes, it has also made an astonishing amount of information available at the mere click of a computer mouse. But when it comes to the delivery of medical care, the distractions of overly-wired doctors can be a problem – and raise the risk of medical malpractice.
By “distracted doctoring,” we’re not really referring to physicians carrying their smartphones around the hospital with them. That probably does occur, though, to some degree, especially among younger doctors who grew up online.
The larger problem is the disruption in normal face-to-face communication that computers can cause. Instead of talking directly to patients about their symptoms and medical conditions, doctors now often look at the computer where they are typing in or reviewing information.
In other words, the computer screen can – both literally and figuratively -come in between doctor and patient. And as a result, the doctor may miss the forest for the tree. After all, the ability to diagnose accurately requires the ability to make a holistic judgment about a patient, not merely implement a computer-driven solution.
To be sure, computers can contain useful guidelines about best practices for the treatment of certain conditions. And electronic health records and other digital tools can be useful, such as in preventing prescription errors caused by scrawled physician signatures.
Yet doctors and other medical service providers must keep the focus on the patient, even as the availability of electronic tools increases. Indeed, this principle of focusing on the patient applies whether doctors use paper charts or electronic medical records.
That is why there are doctors who are concerned about new federal rules regarding information security breaches in their practices. Under these rules, medical providers are now responsible for conducing risk assessments on the security of private patient data.
Source: “New Privacy Rules May Distract Doctors From Patient Care,” Forbes, Peter Lipson, 2-11-13
Our firm handles situations similar to those discussed in this post in the Chicago area. To learn more about our practice, please visit our medical malpractice page.