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Virginia Mason latest hospital to tell its patients that their surgeons may be overlapping surgeries

Posted Thursday, June 8, 2017 by Tyler Goldberg-Hoss

After the recent discovery at Swedish Medical Center of surgeons performing multiple surgeries at the same time, Virginia Mason joins the University of Washington in confirming that the practice exists outside of Swedish, and that they are revising their informed consent forms to address it.

Prior to this, most informed consent forms for surgery talked vaguely the patient’s “care team” being involved in the surgery. Knowing that alone, one might be led to think that the care provided is going to be even better than with just a lone surgeon. However, those words in fact often meant that providers other than the surgeon were involved in many parts of the surgery. And it certainly wasn’t conveyed to a patient that their surgeon would in fact be in other operating rooms during surgery.

The new Virginia informational sheet (you can read it here) describes how the surgeon will always be in the operating room for the “critical portions” of your surgery, but may not be in the room for noncritical parts. Further, your surgeon will not perform any “critical portions” of another person’s surgery while your surgery is occurring.

The term “critical portions” is undefined in the information sheet. However, it appears that the hospital is attempting to allay fears in their patients that their surgeon will be unavailable to them if something goes wrong. Still, who gets to decide what are the “critical portions” of a surgery is unknown. Further, complications from surgeries necessitating competent surgeons occur both in “critical” and “noncritical” portions of surgery. While this updated policy may reduce the risk of your surgeon being unavailable while working on another patient, it does not appear to eliminate it.

To fully eliminate this problem, institutions like Virginia Mason, UW, and Swedish could just eliminate the practice of overlapping surgeries. We are left to wonder why they don’t.

You can read another excellent Seattle Times article on this here:

Virginia Mason to inform patients about overlapping surgeries

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