It’s one thing to be distracted by your smartphone at the dinner table; it’s another thing entirely when you’re performing surgery. The New York Times reports on a disturbing trend it calls "distracted doctoring," explaining that thanks to the increased use of devices including smartphones and computers in medicine, an increasing number of doctors and nurses are not focused on the patient at critical moments. Says a doctor who recently published a journal article on the problem, "My gut feeling is lives are in danger."
Sophisticated devices have certainly helped to prevent medical error and can provide doctors with instant access to important information, like patient files and drug data. Even so, the Times article is filled with terrifying examples of the side effects: A patient who was partially paralyzed while his neurosurgeon used a wireless headset to make at least 10 personal calls on his cell phone. A nurse checking airfares during a spinal operation. Doctors and nurses sending emails while intubating a patient. A study that found 50% of technicians texted while operating bypass machines. "Amazon, Gmail, I’ve seen all sorts of shopping, I’ve seen eBay," says one doctor. "You name it, I’ve seen it."