If there’s one time you want your doctor’s full attention, it’s during surgery.
Most patients don’t realize that surgeons often perform two surgeries at once. They do this to maximize their income.
Most hospitals and Medicare allow the practice. It’s widely known as “double booking.”
An alarming study shows the extent to which double-booked surgeries put patients at risk.
Researchers in the Department of Surgery at the University of Toronto reviewed case histories of more than 90,000 patients. Each underwent either hip replacements or surgery for hip fractures in Ontario, Canada, between 2009 and 2014.[i]
The study found that a patient was twice as likely to experience serious complications within one year if the operation was double booked.
The longer the time period the surgeries overlapped, the greater the risk.
If the surgeon’s two operations overlapped even for as little as 30 minutes, the complication rate still climbed by 80 to 90%.
Complications included infections, need for follow-up surgeries, and longer hospital stays.[ii]
The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine. [iii]
The Surgery Danger Your Doctor Won’t Tell You About
Doctors and hospitals have a strong profit motive to double book surgeries. The more surgeries they do, the more money they make.
The practice often occurs at teaching hospitals, where medical residents handle some of the surgery…while an experienced surgeon hops between two operating rooms. As the study shows, this is a recipe for disaster.
Double-booking has led to patient lawsuits after botched surgeries. But hospitals and doctors are still reluctant to give up the extra profit.[iv]
To add to the risk, an earlier study published in JAMA found that overlapping surgeries are an average of 219 minutes long versus 188 minutes for non-overlapping procedures.
This longer time under anesthesia increases the risk of complications—including death and mental decline. Longer anesthesia time is especially dangerous for seniors.[v]
4 Ways to Protect Yourself Before Surgery
Dr. Alan Zhang is an orthopedic surgeon at the University of California San Francisco. He said the findings underscore the need for patients to demand full disclosure from their surgeon… And for surgeons to be transparent with their patients about the practice of overlapping surgeries.
Make sure to take these steps before you undergo surgery:[vi]
- Be clear. Ask your doctor if he or she is going to perform the entire surgery. If not, will he be there for the entire time?
- Get it in writing. Put your request—that your doctor perform the entire surgery—in writing on the surgical consent form. This is a form that every patient signs.
- Say it again. On the day of surgery, repeat to your doctor that he or she has agreed to be in the operating room for the entire procedure. Do this while a nurse or other staff member is there to witness it.
- Watch out for weasel wording. If your surgeon says that he or she will be “present” or “immediately available,” ask what that means. It could mean that he is nowhere near your operating room.
You should not feel out of place demanding that your surgery not be double-booked. Remember, your doctor works for you.
Editor’s Note: If you go into the hospital, your number one goal should be getting out alive. Discover the three biggest risks of having surgery and how to make sure you don’t fall victim to them.
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