Do cellphones in the OR jeopardize patient safety? 5 thoughts

Manuel Alvarez, MD, adjunct professor of obstetrics and gynecology at New York University School of Medicine in New York City, weighed the pros and cons of physician cellphone use in the operating room in a recent editorial for Fox News Health.

Here are five thoughts from Dr. Alvarez.

  1. Cellphones allow physicians in the OR to access helpful medical apps, look up critical information or rapidly call for help, if need be. However, hospitals cannot properly monitor physicians to ensure they are using their phones solely for work purposes, according to Dr. Alvarez.

  1. Physicians who use their cellphones in the OR to simply "kill time" jeopardize patient safety, wrote Dr. Alvarez.

  1. He also noted cellphones, which often carry bacteria, increase a patient's infection risk when used in the OR.

  1. Physicians may also use cellphones to access and share private patient information. A 2016 report from Skycure found 14 percent of physicians store patient data on their phones without a password, and more than 60 percent of physicians transfer patient information via text message.

  1. "While experts cannot give an exact number for medical errors related to cellphones, devices clearly risk patient safety," Dr. Alvarez concluded. "Doctors should do everything within their power to stay alert and decrease infections during surgery. Staying off their devices will ensure this level of excellence. Hospitals and doctors should work together to put a strategy in place and enforce it. After all, patient safety is at stake."

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