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Technology in the operating room: a double-edged sword

On Behalf of | Aug 7, 2013 | Surgical Errors

Some industries are comparatively high-tech, and there is certainly no disputing that the medical industry is among the most technologically oriented of all work realms. Hospitals in New Jersey and all other states across the country employ ultra-sophisticated machinery and diagnostic tools that are as carefully crafted and precise as anything existing in the aeronautics industry, and that technology is constantly evolving.

In tandem with that evolution, though, and as confirmed through a number of successive studies and investigations, a proliferation of high-tech devices and new equipment in the nation’s operating rooms and intensive care units is far from automatically improving patient care across the board.

In fact, in many instances it is undermining quality care, with troubling evidence emerging that even points to a close nexus between the number of high-tech devices used in a surgery and the surgical errors that result.

In other words, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.

The global medical publisher BMJ Group recently released the results of research findings that scrutinized 28 medical studies on errors occurring in operating rooms. A central finding was this: More than 15 percent of all medical mistakes recorded in the studies that comprised medical malpractice claims related to technological issues.

In fact, BMJ states that close to one quarter of all surgical errors are based on equipment malfunctions and outright failure during operations. Other causes of error centrally include doctors’ inability to fully understand and properly work with employed technologies and the wrong equipment being on hand in the operating room.

A bottom-line conclusion and cautionary note coming from the BMJ analysis is that, since the propensity for surgical error increases commensurate with the dependence of surgeons on technology, that technology needs to be fully harnessed and understood. Doctors must be adequately trained, surgical checklists must be used, and there must be absolute certainty that the right equipment is available in the operating room.

Source: Digital Journal, “Operating room technology issues cause 25 percent of errors,” Jessica Zuzierla, July 28, 2013

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