Smartphones and Facebook in the operating room


I hope everyone enjoyed posts about Colombian life and culture, but now that I am back in the United States – we will get back to our more serious discussions about patient safety and issues in health care.  One of the things we have talked a lot about in the past – and cover extensively in the Hidden Gem book series is operating room quality and safety measures.  This includes using objective measurement tools such as the Surgical Apgar score (created by physician and author, Dr. Atul Gawande) and the safety checklist.

Surgeon as pilot 

These checklists were designed to be similar to the mandatory checklists used by pilots.    They were originally designed in the 1930’s to prevent pilot errors and accidents as planes become more and more complex.

Tools to measure and improve practice

These tools do more than just rate (or grade) operating room safety procedures – they encourage a ‘culture of safety’ and adherence to practices and procedures designed to prevent errors or mistakes.  This means that the more people use (and become familiar with) these practices – the better they get at detecting and preventing errors.

The importance of these checklists has been recognized for years, but is just now gaining in traction. It wasn’t until 2009, that the World Health Organization recommended use of the checklist in hospitals internationally.

Checklists and hospital reimbursement

American hospitals now use the checklist religiously because ‘core measures’  – and reimbursement are tied to its use.  These ‘core measures’ were established a decade ago as part of quality assurance procedures for Medicare and Medicaid.  American hospitals that do not participate (or score poorly) on core measures such as surgical safety procedures – risk not getting paid for their services.  (There are core measures for other patient care items as well, such as the care of patients having a heart attack, or pneumonia).

Surgical Apgar Score

The surgical apgar score, (and similar scales) have been slower to catch on.  This is unfortunate in my opinion, because this tool has the greatest chance of really improving patient care and preventing patient harm.  The surgical apgar score works by basically rating and grading the actual care of the patient in the operating room.

When consumers think about patient care in the operating room – we tend to focus on the surgeon.  But surgery and surgical skill are only a part of the picture.  The anesthesiologist/ nurse anesthestist and anesthesia care team are critical to the safety and health of the patient – and their inattention / or distraction can be disasterous for patients.  But even when disaster is averted – frequent distractions can lead to increased complications.  Sometimes the effects are subtle; such as twenty or thirty minutes of ‘borderline’ low blood pressure and post-operative organ dysfunction from intra-operative ischemia.

But is anyone paying attention?

But is anyone paying attention?

We all know it happens, but too many anesthesiologists are busy playing on Facebook to address the realities of the situation.

Unfortunately, this is a common problem in operating rooms worldwide

Unfortunately, this is a common problem in operating rooms worldwide

None of this is news to long-time readers, but several new articles confirm the utility of safety checklists and operating room safety practices.  (One of the articles somewhat ironically reports that injuries to patients were not as reduced as anticipated by previous studies – because the checklist was not always used / or used correctly.  The authors note that the checklists reduced patient injuries and complications – when they were actually used.

 

Additional posts on this and similar topics:

Reputation, Ranking and Objective measures – talking about the ‘core measures’.

More about the surgical apgar score – from our sister site.

The original Surgical Apgar score

Additional references

I will be updating this section frequently over the next few days.

Medscape summary articles:

Hilt, Emma, (2012). Surgical checklist from WHO improves safety and outcomes.  Medscape, November 2012.

Source articles:

Fudickar, A., Horle, K., Wiltfang, J. & Bein, B. (2012). The effect of the WHO surgical checklist on complication rate and communication.  Dtsch. Artztebl Int 2012, 109(42): 695-701.  The authors of this German paper examined / analyzed 20 different studies looking at the use of surgical checklists.

Jorm CM, O’Sullivan G. (2012). Laptops and smartphones in the operating theatre – how does our knowledge of vigilance, multi-tasking and anaesthetist performance help us in our approach to this new distraction?  Anaesth Intensive Care. 2012 Jan;40(1):71-8.

Patterson P. (2012). Smartphones, tablets in the OR: with benefits come distractions.  OR Manager. 2012 Apr;28(4):1, 6-8, 10.  [no free full text available].

Pereira, Bruno Monteiro Tavares et al. Interruptions and distractions in the trauma operating room: understanding the threat of human error. Rev. Col. Bras. Cir. [online]. 2011, vol.38, n.5 [cited  2012-12-18], pp. 292-298 .

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From news of the weird: Wrong-sided surgery


Admittedly, this is not where I usually look for information on medical quality and safety measures – but this case, as presented in News of the Weird for this week deserves mention:

Neurosurgeon Denise Crute left Colorado in 2005 after admitting to four serious mistakes (including wrong-side surgeries on patients’ brain and spine) and left Illinois several years after that, when the state medical board concluded that she made three more serious mistakes (including another wrong-side spine surgery).

Nonetheless, she was not formally “disciplined” by either state in that she was permitted merely to “surrender” her licenses, which the profession does not regard as “discipline.” In November, Denver’s KMGH-TV reported that Dr. Crute had landed a job at the prestigious Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, where she treats post-surgery patients (and she informed Illinois officials recently that she is fully licensed in New York to resume performing neurosurgery). [KMGH-TV, 11-4-2012]”

This is an excellent example of the importance of the ‘Time-out” which includes ‘surgical site verification’ among all members of the surgical team.  This also shows some of the limitations in relying on the health care professions to police themselves.  Does this mean that I can absolutely guarantee that this won’t happen in any of the operating rooms I’ve observed?  No – but it does mean that I can observe and report any irregularities witnessed (or deviations from accepted protocols) – such as ‘correct side verification’ or failure of the operating surgeon to review medical records/ radiographs prior to surgery.

It also goes to show that despite lengthy credentialing processes and the reputations of some of the United States finest institutions are still no guarantee of quality or even competence.

What about Leapfrog?

This comes at the same time as the highly controversial Leapfrog grades are released – in which medical giants like UCLA and the Cleveland Clinic received failing marks.  (UCLA received an ‘F” for avoidable patient harm, and the Cleveland Clinic received a “D”.)

Notably, the accuracy of the Leapfrog scoring system has been under fire since it’s inception – particularly since the organization charges hospitals for the right to promote their score.

But then – as the linked article points out – so do most of the organizations ‘touting’ to have the goods on the facilities such as U.S. News and Reports and their famed hospital edition.

Guess there aren’t very many people like me – that feel like that’s a bit of a conflict of interest..

New venture with Colombia Reports


While I have written several books about surgery and surgeons in Colombia, much of this information I’ve obtained from my research has been consigned to sitting on the shelves of various bookstores.

But, now with the help of Colombia Reports, I am hoping to change that.  As I mentioned in a previous post, Colombia Reports.com and it’s founder, Adriaan Alsema have been amazingly supportive of my work, ever since they printed my first article on Cartagena in 2010.

Since returning to Colombia, I have kept in touch with Colombia Reports while we discussed ways to bring more of my research and work to the public.  Colombia Reports is a perfect platform – because it serves a community of English-speaking (reading) individuals who are interested in/ and living in Colombia.   With this in mind, Colombia Reports has created a new Health & Beauty section which will carry some of my interviews and evaluations.

It is an ideal partnership for me; it allows me to bring my information to the people who need it – and continue to do my work as an objective, and unbiased reviewer.  We haven’t figured out all of the details yet – but I want to encourage all of my faithful readers to show Colombia Reports the same dedication that you’ve shown my tiny little blog, so that our ‘experiment’ in medical tourism reporting becomes a viable and continued part of Colombia Reports.

This is more important to me that ever – just yesterday as I was revisiting a surgeon I interviewed in the past (for a new updated article), I heard a tragic story that just broke my heart about a patient that was recently harmed by Dr. Alfredo Hoyos.  While I was unable to obtain documents regarding this incident – this is not the first time that this has happened.

Previous accusations of medical malpractice against this surgeon have been published in Colombian news outlets including this story from back in 2002.

The accusations are from Marbelle, a Colombian artist regarding the intra-operative death of her mother, Maria Isabeth Cardona Restrepo (aka Yolanda) during liposuction.  These accusations were published in Bocas – which is part of El Tiempo, a popular Colombian newspaper, in which the singer alleges that Dr. Hoyos was unprepared, and did not have the proper equipment on hand to treat her mother when she went into cardiac arrest during the surgery.

story about the death of one of Dr. Alfredo Hoyos' patients.

story about the death of one of Dr. Alfredo Hoyos’ patients.

Kristin 002 Kristin 003 Kristin 004

Now – as many of you remember, I interviewed Dr. Alfredo Hoyos back in 2011, and followed him to the operating room, giving me first hand knowledge of his surgical practices.

Readers of the book know he received harsh criticism for both failure to adhere to standard practices of sterility and patient intra-operative safety (among other things.)  I also called him out for claiming false credentials from several plastic surgery associations – and notified those agencies of those claims..   In the book, readers were strongly advised not to see Dr. Hoyos or his associates for care.

But – as I mentioned, my book is sitting lonely on a shelf, here in Bogotá – and in the warehouses of Amazon.com and other retailers.. So, people like that patient – didn’t have the critical information that they needed..

This is where Colombia Reports – and I hope to change all that.   So in the coming weeks, I am re-visiting some of surgeons we talked to in 2011, and interviewing  more (new) surgeons, more operating room visits..

Back in the OR with Dr. Sergio Abello


Clinica Shaio

Spent part of yesterday back in the operating room with Dr. Sergio Abello.  Dr. Abello is an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in foot and ankle surgery.  (He also have a specialized computer system in his office for truly customized orthodics).

Dr. Sergio Abello de Castro, Foot & Ankle Center 

It  was a chance meeting in the hallway, but as always, with the gracious and genial surgeon – it led to the operating room.  He apologized, “it’s just a small case,” but everything went perfectly.

Dr. Sergio Abello (right) with orthopedic resident, Dr. Juan Manuel Munoz

 

Patient was prepped and draped in sterile fashion, with no breaks in sterile technique.  Case proceeded rapidly (previous surgical pins removed).

The was no bleeding or other complications.

Yvonne (left), surgical nurse

Anesthesia was managed beautifully by Claudia Marroqoon, RN – with a surgical apgar of 10.  The patient received conscious sedation and appeared comfortable during the procedure.  There was no hemodynamic instability or hypoxia.  Oxygen saturation 100% for the entire duration of the case.

Patients with Passports: Medical Tourism, Law, and Ethics


A new book on medical tourism – this one by an associate professor at Harvard Law School ( I. Glenn Cohen), which follows the lines of the work done by Dr. Delmonico and several others in addressing the legal and ethical issues in medical tourism – particularly the grey areas (and downright black, in my opinion) such as transplant tourism and surrogacy tourism.  I haven’t had the opportunity to read his book yet  – but I hope he takes aim at the unethical practices of some of the giants like Planet Hospital.

He’s a much bigger voice than an unknown nurse / writer like me – so maybe he will get the attention that this issue deserves.

Maybe at the same time, it will spark interest in efforts like mine – to establish objective and unbiased evaluations of health care services so that people who are looking or relying on medical tourism for their healthcare aren’t just taking a blind stab based on slick marketing tools, and fancy websites?

I sure hope so – even if stories like this one aren’t front-page news like black market kidney sales, it is still a vital and important reason to do what I do.

Final draft.

Objective and unbiased reviews

Author to author – congratulations, Mr. Cohen and best of luck!

Why read Bogota and other hidden gem titles?


 

As readers of my sister site, Cartagena Surgery know, I am currently hard at work on my third title in the ‘Hidden Gem’ series – with the latest offering on Mexicali, Mexico.  But I continue to get comments from readers, friends, and everyone else asking, “Why bother?”

Why bother reading Hidden Gem?

People should read these titles because we can’t assume that all medical providers have been vetted, or that all medical facilities meet acceptable criteria for safe care.  It is a dangerous assumption to expect that ‘someone’ else has already done the research. [lest you think this could only happen in Sri Lanka, be forewarned.  With new legislation, the critical doctor shortage in the USA will only worsen.]

Medical tourism has the potential to connect consumers with excellent providers around the world.  It may be part of a solution to the long waits that many patients are experiencing when seeking (sometimes urgent) surgical care.  It also offers an opportunity to fight the runaway health care costs in the United States.

But..

But it also has the potential, if unchecked, unvetted, unverified and left unregulated to cause great harm.

Another reason to read Hidden Gem is to find out more about the surgeons themselves, their training, and many of the new, and innovative practices in the realm of surgery. Often the best doctors don’t advertise or ‘toot’ their own horn, so you won’t find them advertised in the pages of your in-flight magazine as “One of the best doctors in XXX” even if they are.  (Many people don’t realize those segments are paid advertisements, either.)

Why bother writing Hidden Gem?

Because ‘someone’ needs to.

I am that ‘someone’ who does the fieldwork to find out the answers for you.  I can never assume that it’s been done before, by someone else.  I have to start from ‘scratch’ for every book, for every provider and every hospital.

I also believe that the public should know, and want to know more about the people we entrust to take care of us during serious illness or surgery.  We should know who isn’t practicing according to accepted or current standards and evidence – and we should know who has/ and is offering the latest cutting edge (but safe and proven) therapies.

 

Read more about the doctor shortages:

NYT article on worsening doctor shortage  (and one of the proposed solutions is a loosening of rules governing the training and credentials of doctors from overseas – coming to practice in the USA).

Readers write in: TAVI


Thanks again to ‘Lapeyre’, who as it turns out is Dr. Didier Lapeyre, a renowned, French cardiothoracic surgeon credited with the development of the first mechanical valves.

Dr. Didier Lapeyre was gracious enough to send some additional literature to add to our ongoing discussions regarding severe aortic stenosis and TAVI/ TAVR therapies.  He also commented that the best way to avoid these ‘high risk situations’ is by earlier intervention with conventional surgery – something we discussed before in the article entitled, “More patients need surgery.”

He also points out that ‘elderly’ patients actually do quite well with aortic valve replacement and offers a recently published meta-analysis of 48 studies on patients aged 80 or older.

As readers know, on June 13, 2012 – the FDA ruled in favor of expanding the eligibility criteria for this therapy.  Previously, this treatment modality, due to its experimental nature and high rate of complications including stroke and serious bleeding, has been limited in the United States to patients deemed ineligible for aortic valve replacement surgery.

Now on the heels of the Partner A trial, in which researchers reported favorable results for patients receiving the Sapien device, the FDA has voted to approve expanding criteria to include patients deemed to be high risk candidates for surgery.  As we have discussed on previous occasions, this opens the door to the potential for widespread abuse, misapplication of this therapy and potential patient harm.

In the accompanying 114 page article, “Transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI): a health technology assessment update,” Belgian researchers (Mattias, Van Brabandt, Van de Sande & Deviese, 2011) looking at transcatheter valve procedures have found exactly that in their examination of the use of TAVI worldwide.

Most notably, is the evidence of widespread abuse in Germany (page 49 of report), which has become well-known for their early adoption of this technology, and now uses TAVI for an estimated 25 – 40% of valve procedures*.  Closer examination of the practices in this country show poor data reporting with incomplete information in the national registry as well as a reported mortality rate of 7.7%, which is more than double that of conventional surgery.  Unsurprisingly, in Germany, TAVI is reimbursed at double the amount compared to conventional surgery**, providing sufficient incentive for hospitals and cardiologists to use TAVI even in low risk patients. (and yes, german cardiologists are often citing “patient refused surgery” as their reason, particularly when using TAVI on younger, healthy, low risk patients.)

In their examination of the data itself, Mattias et al. (2011) found significant researcher bias within the study design and interpretation of results.  More alarmingly, Mattias found that one of the principle researchers in the Partner A study, Dr. Martin Leon had major financial incentives for reporting successful results.  He had recently received a 6.9 million dollar payment from Edward Lifesciences, the creators of the Sapien valve for purchase of his own transcatheter valve company.   He also received 1.5 million dollar bonus if the Partner A trial reached specific milestones.  This fact alone, in my mind, calls into question the integrity of the entire study.

[Please note that this is just a tiny summary of the exhaustive report.]

Thank you, Dr. Lapeyre for offering your expertise for the benefit of our readers!

* Estimates on the implantation of TAVI in Germany vary widely due to a lack of consistent reporting.

** At the time of the report, TAVI was reimbursed at 36,000 euros (45,500 dollars) versus 17,500 euros (22,000 dollars) for aortic valve replacement.

For more posts on TAVI and aortic stenosis, see our TAVI archive.

References

Mattias, N., Van Brabandt, H., Van de Sande, S. & Deviese, S. (2011).  Transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI): a health technology assessment .  Belgian Health Care Knowledge Centre.

Vasques, F., Messori, A., Lucenteforte, E. & Biancari, F. (2012).  Immediate and late outcome of patients aged 80 years and older undergoing isolated aortic valve replacement: a systematic review and meta-analysis of 48 studies.  Am Heart J 2012; 163: 477-85.