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Study finds phone calls increase risk of medical errors

On-the-job cellphone use could cause health care workers in Pennsylvania and elsewhere to make more medical mistakes, according to a new study. The research was recently published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

For the study, researchers followed 257 nurses at a hospital pediatric intensive care unit from August 1, 2016, through September 30, 2017. During that period of time, they cared for 3,308 patients. The study found that approximately half the nurses received a phone call 10 minutes before administering medication to a patient at some point during the observation period. The nurses that received a phone call had a mistake rate of 3.7%, which is higher than the general error rate of 3.1%.

Researchers also analyzed the way work shifts, a nurse’s experience level and nurse-to-patient ratios impacted the error rate. They found that nurses who worked night shifts were more likely to make an error after receiving a phone call. Likewise, nurses with less than six months of PICU experience and those caring for multiple patients with at least one requiring arterial catheterization or mechanical ventilation were more likely to make mistakes after a distraction. Interestingly, receiving text messages did not increase the risk of on-the-job errors. The authors of the study concluded that health care professionals should reduce outside phone calls and other distractions as much as possible to reduce the risk of making medical errors.

Victims of nursing malpractice might find relief by contacting an attorney for advice. After reviewing the details of the case, the attorney might determine that the medical professionals involved in the case failed to provide the legal standard of care. When that occurs, it might be advisable to file a medical malpractice lawsuit seeking compensation for medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, pain and suffering, mental anguish and more.