The human factor

We have reported on several occasions, in multiple formats (e.g. articles, web seminars, guides) about the emergence and continued growth ...

From the January, 2012 Issue of Cabling Installation & Maintenance Magazine

by Patrick McLaughlin

We have reported on several occasions, in multiple formats (e.g. articles, web seminars, guides) about the emergence and continued growth of cabling and other communications systems for healthcare facilities.

Healthcare facilities, including hospitals, are becoming increasingly “connected” through the use of electronic health records, the need to send extremely large files across networks, and other factors. One consequence of such fully connected medical facilities is that caregivers, including doctors and nurses, are carrying wireless devices with them everywhere, all the time.

Matt Richtel of The New York Times recently wrote an article entitled “As Doctors Use More Devices, Potential for Distraction Grows.” The title does a good job of telling the story, but the details within his article will either amuse you (if you have the luxury of reading from a safe distance) or frighten you (if you are about to go under the knife or otherwise rely on the attentiveness of medical professionals).

Richtel informs us that the “fully connected hospital” dynamic has some unintended, negative consequences for patients. He reports that “55 percent of technicians who monitor bypass machines acknowledged to researchers that they had talked on cellphones during heart surgery. Half said they texted while in surgery.” Richtel also references incidents of “a neurosurgeon making personal calls during an operation,” and “a nurse checking airfares during surgery.”

The article quotes an anesthesiologist as follows: “You walk around the hospital, and what you see is not funny. You justify carrying devices around the hospital to do medical records. But you can surf the Internet or do Facebook, and sometimes, for whatever reason, Facebook is more tempting.”

The article uses a particular phrase to describe the collection of portable devices that have the potential to distract medical providers: the “iPatient.”

Whether you consider these revelations to be head-shaking or jaw-dropping, they admittedly are sensational because they take stories from literal life-and-death situations. Like the months-ago news stories about the sleeping air traffic controllers, they get our attention because of the potential loss of life that can result.

The overall theme is that behind all the technology intended to improve our lives, personally and professionally, is the human factor. In almost every way, the extent to which technology does its job is up to us.

PATRICK McLAUGHLIN
Chief Editor
patrick@pennwell.com

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