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Posted on 04.07.2016

For the Love of Pete: Technology and Idiocy in the OR

What’s the key to not being outed for your disrespect, unprofessionalism or insensitivity to others? Be respectful, professional and compassionate. One hospital’s operating staff has learned that the hard way after a patient captured a recording of her surgeon and his team making belittling comments about her while she was under anesthesia.

Did the OR team know it was being recorded? Of course not. Does that excuse their behavior? Absolutely not. In fact, according to the patient, she only decided to hide a recorder in her hair during surgery after she felt she was treated harshly by the physician when she met with him weeks before her procedure.    

There are two communications lessons here (at least):

1. In this era of ubiquitous technologies and interconnectedness via the web and social media, it is much harder to hide your mistakes. While that’s unfortunate for those who make unintentional or well-intentioned missteps, it’s an eye opener when it reveals the ugly underbelly of a culture. When I heard of this incident, my mind went also to the dash-cam and body recorders that have captured law enforcement officials acting inappropriately. And those folks know they’re being recorded! Whether you’re aware of it or not, in today’s world, someone is likely watching. If you can’t act professional and compassionate simply because it’s what you’re made of and it’s the right thing to do, you’d do well to keep that much in mind.

2. There is often a disconnect between patients and the care teams they entrust to heal them. That’s a communication issue that PR can’t solve, but healthcare organizations must. In this particular story, it appears a true patient-focused culture—one that puts the patient and his or her needs at the heart of their work—and possibly some more effective patient education would have avoided such a heartbreaking outcome.

In its response to the Texas patient, the health system at which her operation took place said “we have used this opportunity to remind the OR staff and physicians to be mindful of their comments at all times.” Um….okay. Is that it? To be mindful of their comments? Let’s hope the letter, and the retraining, went much, much further than that.

What other lessons do you take from this example? 

Dana Coleman is a Vice President at Lovell Communications. Connect with Dana at: Dana@lovell.com 

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