On behalf of Hastings Law Firm posted in Doctor Errors on Tuesday, April 29, 2014.

There may be a new distraction for surgeons while in the operating room, and it’s one that most people use every day. Social media usage is part of a medical malpractice case against a Texas anesthesiologist. The claim alleges that his use of technology during a procedure caused the death of a patient.

A 61-year-old Texas woman went under anesthesia for what was supposed to be a low-risk procedure. The anesthesiologist who had administered her anesthesia supposedly spent more time monitoring his iPad than his patient’s vitals. This led to his failure to note that her blood-oxygen levels had dipped to an unsafe level, causing her to turn blue.

Later, the anesthesiologist acknowledged the fact that he readily engaged with technology and social media during procedures. This included texting and reading eBooks. It was also discovered that the anesthesiologist sometimes posted about his patients on the social media website Facebook, including one instance on Christmas morning when he included a picture of one of his patient’s vitals as he or she underwent surgery.

Although he claims that he checks patients’ vitals roughly every five minutes while engaging in distracting behavior in the operating room, a plethora of things can go wrong in a very brief amount of time. Whether he routinely checked on vitals at all may be in question, considering the medical malpractice claim concerning his 61-year-old patient states that she was blue for at least 15 minutes before he took notice. When a medical professional who has been charged with the health and well-being of a patient fails to properly monitor a patient, serious injury or even death can occur. In this case, the evidence of the anesthesiologist’s Facebook usage may prove to be beneficial to the case.

Source: Pacific Standard, “The Dangerous Rise of Social Media in the Operating Room”, Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza, April 16, 2014