The iPatient and patient safety

Last December Mike published a piece in the Annals of Internal Medicine about how care delivery has changed on medical teaching services, including the reduction in physician interaction that now occurs as a result of residency hour limits and of the computerization of health care delivery. Residents and fellows now spend hours per day sitting in front of computer terminals, from which they must complete nearly every task (except, you know, actually seeing a patient, when telemedicine is not an option).

The NY Times has an article today on another unintended consequence of our increased reliance on computers and handheld devices—distracted doctoring. Distractions come not just from our obsession with what Abe Verghese calls the “iPatient” (that wealth of digital data each patient accumulates during even a short hospital stay), but also when we use devices for non-patient related activities during rounds, in the operating room, etc. Read the piece for yourself, and decide if this anecdotal problem is a real issue for patient safety (and if so, how to measure it, and how to implement change, when computers have become so essential for patient care). My favorite quote in the piece:

“The iPatient is getting wonderful care across America,” Dr. Verghese said. “The real patient wonders, ‘Where is everybody?’ ”


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