A new Senate report raises concerns about concurrent surgeries and how
they may impact patient safety. It also recommends that hospitals and
regulators strengthen their policies surrounding the practice of concurrent
and overlapping surgeries.
As we have previously discussed on this San Diego Injury Blog, the term
“concurrent surgeries” refers to two surgeries led by the
same surgeon at the same time. The practice of concurrent surgeries came
under scrutiny in the wake of a
Boston Globe Spotlight investigation. The newspaper reported that
overlapping or double-booked elective surgeries were frequently performed at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston, accounting for 15 percent
of all procedures.
Boston Globe reported that patients were often not informed that their surgeon would
be performing concurrent procedures. The investigation also raised patient
safety concerns. In one concurrent procedure, attending surgeons were
unavailable to help less-experienced residents because they were delayed
with another operation. In other cases, patients were under anesthesia
for long periods of time while the surgery team waited for the surgeon
to arrive from another procedure.
In early 2016, the Senate Finance Committee (Committee), which has jurisdiction
over the Medicare and Medicaid programs, sent letters to 20 teaching hospitals
inquiring about concurrent and overlapping procedures at their institutions.
While the Committee was encouraged that many hospitals have amended their
policies in light of the
Boston Globe investigation, it called for further measures intended to increase transparency
and patient safety.
"While we are encouraged by the steps taken by the American College
of Surgeons and a number of hospitals to address the concerns with concurrent
surgeries, we remain concerned that the nearly 5,000 hospitals in America
may lack thorough and complete policies covering these procedures and
patient consent. By working with hospitals and surgeons in a collaborative
manner, it is our hope we can continue to increase transparency and patient
safety," Sens. Orrin Hatch and Ron Wyden wrote in a joint statement.
With regard to patient safety, the
Senate report makes the following recommendations:
- Develop a concurrent and overlapping surgical policy that clearly prohibits
the former and regulates the practice of the latter consistent with the
- Formally identify the critical portions of particular procedures, to the
extent practicable, as well as those portions unsuitable for overlap.
- Develop processes to ensure that patient consent discussions result in
a complete understanding by the patient that her/his surgery will overlap
with another patient’s; develop materials such as frequently asked
questions; and educate their patients ahead of their surgeries, giving
them enough time to review materials and fully consider their options.
- Prospectively identify the backup surgeon when overlapping surgeries are
- Develop mechanisms to enforce the established concurrent and overlapping
surgical policies and monitor and enforce their outcomes.
If you or someone you care about has suffered serious harm due to a surgical
error or other serious medical mistake, you may be entitled to compensation.
For more information, please contact
a San Diego medical malpractice attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage
for a free consultation.