Most anaesthetists see colleague on phone in surgery

We’ve all heard the message “don’t use your smartphone while driving” — but anaesthetists may benefit from a similar message in the operating theatre.

A survey of smartphone use among anaesthetists in Saolta University Healthcare Group found that almost seven in 10 witnessed another anaesthetist distracted by smartphones at least once; 45.3% witnessed distraction a few times; and 16.8% several times.

A “common theme” from consultants who responded to the survey, published in the Irish Medical Journal, “was the concern about distraction to trainees (anaesthetists) by smartphones, mainly when used in operating rooms”.

It says there is extensive data about the negative effects of using phones while operating motor vehicles and that “a comparison can be made between providing anaesthetic care in operating rooms and driving a vehicle, with similar likelihood of distraction and severe consequences”.

Anaesthetists play a key role in theatre, delivering anaesthetics and monitoring the patient’s vital signs throughout surgery.

A total of 95 anaesthetists responded to the survey. Almost 98% had smartphones. About two thirds used them during contact with patients, mainly for patient-related purposes.

Nearly seven in 10 either agreed or strongly agreed that use of smartphones “is a potential risk for patient safety”.

“When compared with reading books or journals in operating rooms, smartphones can be more distracting, as they can involve interactions with other people, especially if used for messaging or social media.”

The report calls for guidelines “that encourage safe use of smartphones during clinical practice without jeopardising the beneficial effect of their use”.

The study said while smartphones and medical-related apps provide benefits for healthcare professionals, and patients, they “can present a potential source of distraction and interruption of clinical care, which can lead to serious harm to patients”.


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