Time-out procedures protect both you and your doctors from harm

On Behalf of | Jan 20, 2021 | Medical Malpractice

Medical safety analysts invest significant time in reviewing adverse patient outcome data. They rely on their analysis to devise strategies that doctors can use to minimize the chances of a patient unnecessarily suffering harm. These safety analysts came up with the time-out procedure years ago with the expectation that it would reduce the incidence rate of adverse surgical outcomes.

Unfortunately, safety analysts find that doctors don’t perform it as much as they should. 

What is the time-out procedure?

A time-out procedure is when all the members of a surgical team pause to confirm a patient’s identity, the procedure that they’re preparing to perform and the body part that it involves. The lead surgeon can also use this time-out period to ensure that everyone on the medical team knows their roles, to go over the plan of action and what to do should something go wrong.

Many television programs like to show dramatic scenes where doctors rush a patient into an operating room to perform a life-saving operation. These cases are anomalies. Doctors perform far more elective surgeries than they do spur of the moment ones. In situations like these, surgeons come into the operating room to perform a scheduled operation. Doctors have time in these instances to take a minute time-out break before they slice open a patient, but often they don’t. 

When are time-outs most effective?

Time-outs are most effective when doctors perform them while the entire medical team is physically and mentally present. There’s more of a chance of an adverse event occurring when not everyone is there or people are distracted. It’s not uncommon for senior leadership to not attend these time-outs or to rush through them hastily. Those members of the medical team playing supporting roles often don’t speak up and report that, something which perpetuates the cycle of adverse events. 

How can the lack of time-outs impact you?

Researchers have long been tracking how surgeons who perform time-out procedures make fewer errors than those who don’t. This knowledge has led many hospitals or surgical centers to impose in-house policies requiring their doctors to perform time-outs. Few do it and hope that it won’t backfire on them. 

A medical malpractice attorney can review your surgical records if you suffered an adverse event while undergoing a medical procedure in an Indianapolis hospital. Your lawyer can then advise you whether you can sue your doctor for negligence per Indiana law.