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Doctors use smartphones during operation.

Byline: Prof Hafiz Umair Munawar

A survey of the professionals who operates the heart-lung machine during cardiac surgery found that over half (55.6pc) of perfusionists use cell phone during the performance of cardiopulmonary bypass

Possibly a place where mobile phones might be thought to be banned, turns out to be a hotbed of phone use the hospital operating theatre. To help prevent medical errors and give doctors and nurses speedy access to patient records, doctors' offices and hospitals are using more portable computers and smartphones.

A survey of the professionals who operates the heart-lung machine during cardiac surgery found that over half (55.6 percent) of perfusionists use of a cell phone during the performance of cardiopul-monary bypass (CPB).

Sending text messages while performing CPB was acknowledged by 49.2 percent, with clear generational differences detected when cross-referenced with age groups. For smart phone features, perfusionists report having accessed e-mail (21 percent), used the internet (15.1 percent), or have checked/posted on social networking sites (3.1 percent) while performing heart surgery.

Despite this, safety concerns were expressed by 78.3 percent who believe that cell phones can introduce a potentially significant safety risk to patients.

Speaking on a cell phone and text messaging during CPB are regarded as "always an unsafe practice" by 42.3 percent and 51.7 percent of respondents, respectively. Personal distraction by cell phone use that negatively affected performance was admitted by 7.3 percent, whereas witnessing another perfusionist distracted with phone/text while on CPB was acknowledged by 33.7 percent of respondents.

This survey suggests that the majority of perfusionists believe cell phones raise significant safety issues while operating the heart-lung machine. However, the majority also have used a cell phone while performing this activity.

Recent advances in modern medicine owe their success, in large part, to the integration of technology. Smartphones are the latest example of this trend, allowing doctors several hundred miles away from their patients to not only monitor their condition in real-time, but also to share information, update charts, and even carry out procedures with remote instructions if the need arises. This remote ability is particularly beneficial for health travel patients, and has given rise to a new term in the medical profession: telehealth. The ability of the smartphones to display incredibly detailed procedures in an easy to follow, step-by-step fashion has garnered praise from both doctors and patients. Patients are particularly fond of the technology because it allows them to leave their country of origin while receiving the highest degree of medical care.

Canadian patients who wish to travel to the United States, for example, experience enormous psychological, physical, and emotional benefits from knowing that their medical condition is being monitored at all times. Doctors and Nurses, especially in remote parts of the developing world, can perform any number of procedures by relying on the information displayed on their mobile device.

Whatever procedure may be involved, including cosmetic surgery, weight loss surgery, and dental or orthopaedic procedures, the smartphone allows doctors to monitor vital signs and upload information about their patients without restricting the mobility of the patient. The ability to monitor heart rates in particular has dramatically increased the popularity of the smartphone as a medical device. Patients feel safe and cared-for, even if they do not see the doctor face-to-face, while doctors are able to compile accurate and thorough clinical data without adding significantly to their overhead, or compromising the level of care. The biomedical data is transferred through what is known as CDMA, or the code division multiple access channel.

This is a worldwide technology which more efficiently utilizes existing frequencies, assigning each user a unique code which allows him or her to communicate while many other people are simultaneously communicating on the same frequency without being lost in the shuffle. As a result, a network of medical communications can be easily set up without placing an undue burden on existing frequencies.

As a whole, telehealth is revolutionizing global healthcare. The flexibility of this system takes a great deal of worry and stress out of chronic conditions, especially those related to the heart. Outpatient procedures become even less stressful for both the doctor and the patient; any complications will be noted immediately, even if the patient does not realize his or her symptoms require reporting. If the patient has had gastric band surgery or bariatric surgery abroad, his or her doctor can be instantly virtually present.

Because of telehealth, health care is now becoming more integrated and thorough due to the amount of data that can be easily collected and dispersed. No region on the planet is too remote to easily access the latest developments in medicine, and no patient has to worry about being out of reach of modern medical care. The medical director of a surgical intensive care unit that he has seen his colleagues using the computer in the unit during surgery for "Amazon, Gmail, I've seen all sorts of shopping, I've seen eBay. You name it, I've seen it."

Ironically, nearly 80 percent of the technician survey respondents said they believe that cell phones can introduce a significant safety risk to patients; more than half agreed that texting during a procedure was "always an unsafe practice."

None of the doctors are saying electronic devices should be banned - just used in a more responsible, safe manner. In medical school and residency, there are few courses on online professionalism. Perhaps that needs to be part of the curriculum. We need social media and health 2.0 role models who can teach physicians, residents and medical students not only how to act professional online, but also on appropriate mobile technology use in the clinic and hospital.

Recent advances in modern medicine owe their success, in large part, to the integration of technology. Smartphones are the latest example of this trend, allowing doctors several hundred miles away from their patients to not only monitor their condition in real-time, but also to share information and update charts
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Publication:Flare
Date:Feb 15, 2012
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