Guest Post: The effect of hospital distractions on patient safety

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times squareIf you have ever been to Times Square in the heart of New York City, you understand how a flood of noise, sights and smells overwhelm even the most hardened city dweller. Regardless of the time of day, electronic lights flash messages ranging from benign advertisements to danger warnings intended to protect individuals from harm. It is virtually impossible for our minds to process this many messages and for us not to become distracted. With an aging and growing population, the increase in the number of individuals with access to health insurance coupled with technological advancements, today’s hospitals are virtual Times Squares. Emergency rooms, intensive care units, intermediate care floors and other units are full of hurried care givers inundated with sounds from buzzers, alarms, bells and phones, as well as visual diversions from flashing lights, heart tracings, call lights, computer screens, emails, texts and patient televisions. All of these distractions present significant safety hazards with regard to patient safety for family and friends who have to be hospitalized.

hospital computerRecent data gathered by the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority (PPSA) reveals that over 65% of Serious Events reported in Pennsylvania were caused in some manner by healthcare providers being distracted. Studies show that healthcare providers responsible for dispensing medication are distracted every two minutes while emergency room staff members are distracted every six minutes. A 2011 study found that over half of the operating room staff attending cardiac bypass surgery use cell phones during the procedure to text or email. Because of the growing number of distractions, here are tips that you can take on behalf of yourself or loved ones whom you are visiting in a hospital to protect them.

5 Tips for Protecting Your Own Patient Safety

  1. Turn off your television, phone and other electronic devices when you are having a discussion with your healthcare providers. These items impact your ability to concentrate and listen critically. When your nurse or physician sees you focused on them, they will naturally focus on you.

  3. Take notes. If you are able, keep a notepad with key points, test results and medications. If you are unable, ask your friends and family to write notes on your notepad next to your bed. You can always ask the healthcare providers to make notes.

  5. When a healthcare provider brings medication, ask them to double check the name, dose amount, timing and the reason you are receiving the medication. Do not be afraid to ask why you are receiving the medication. Bring a list of your normal medications with you and keep it next to you during your entire stay. Most smartphone todays have a notepad or free apps that can store this information for you.

  7. Before having your blood drawn, radiology studies or any other test, ask the healthcare provider to confirm who ordered the test, whether you are having the correct test and why you are having the test.

  9. When you speak with the healthcare provider, ask them to carefully explain your plan of care. All healthcare providers are trained to create a plan of care regardless of where you are on your journey. Having the healthcare provider repeat the plan or having multiple healthcare providers repeat the same plan forces them to think about what you need and whether the proper steps are being followed. It also allows you to confirm that everyone is on the same page.

It is intimidating and scary to be in a hospital. Even though you or your loved one does not feel well, no one will be more vigilant in protecting your safety than you. Do not be afraid to speak up, ask questions, ask for clarification and be your own advocate. While the healthcare providers in the hospital have many patients, you only have one – so take care of that patient.

Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Attorneys

IMG_4713At Messa & Associates, we are committed to improving patient safety. Virtually every day, we console clients whose lives have been irreparably changed because hospitals and physicians break patient safety rules and deviate from standards of care. We feel the impact that these harms and losses have on victims, their families, and their friends. We remain frustrated by witnessing the number of preventable errors that routinely occur. If any one of these suggestions can protect you or a loved one, we will be one step closer to eradicating this dangerous trend.

The medical malpractice attorneys at Messa & Associates are experienced in handling complex medical malpractice cases, including but not limited to MRSA infections, surgical site infections, foreign objects, missed diagnoses, surgical errors, and treatment errors/negligence. If you or a loved one has fallen victim to medical negligence at a hospital, nursing home, or rehab facility, act quickly. Call a medical malpractice attorney from Messa & Associates today, before your rights to legal compensation have expired. Call 877-MessaLaw for a free consultation or submit an inquiry online for a free case evaluation.


Call the Philadelphia personal injury lawyers of Messa & Associates today to discuss your case with a professional who has the knowledge to answer your questions or submit a free online inquiry.

Call, toll-free, 1-877-MessaLaw (637-7252), or submit a free online inquiry form.

About the Author:

Director of Marketing for Messa & Associates located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. For all marketing or press release communications, contact

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