Massachusetts hospitals must now document when surgeons enter, leave OR

Amid an ongoing debate over the impact of concurrent surgeries on patient safety, Massachusetts has imposed a requirement that surgeons document each entrance and exit from the operating room, according to The Boston Globe.

The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine has approved the rule, one of the nation's first, in a 5-1 vote, amid a series of Globe reports that raised questions about the practice's potential risk of stretching surgeons too thin.

But before the rules take effect, the requirements need approval from several other state agencies', as does another stipulation that primary surgeons designate a backup doctor to assume their responsibilities if they leave the operating room, according to the article.

The Globe found that several Bay State hospitals' operative reports listed times for when nurses entered and exited operating areas, but not surgeons, with many patients not learning until after the fact that their surgeons scheduled another procedure at the same time as theirs. For example, three patients, including former Red Sox pitcher Bobby Jenks, are suing Kirkham Wood, M.D., a former spinal surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital, over their inability to determine based on medical records whether he was present during their procedure due to multiple schedules listing Wood as attending surgeon during overlapping procedures.

Other Massachusetts hospitals, meanwhile, told the Globe that they already document such activity, including Boston Medical Center and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Massachusetts Nurses Association Spokesman David Schildmeier called the vote a positive development, especially since most nurses already document their own comings and goings. 

Defenders of concurrent surgeries, meanwhile, argue the practice saves lives. "There are people in this city who are alive in this city today after the Boston Marathon bombings that went to all of our teaching hospitals and we opened up rooms and did a bunch of surgeries simultaneously," Partners HealthCare CEO David Torchiana, M.D., said last December.

To learn more:
- read the article