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Simultaneous Surgeries – How Big of a Problem are They?

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This past fall, the Boston Globe published a series of stories about a practice known as “concurrent surgery” or “simultaneous surgery,” in which a single surgeon is scheduled to operate on more than one patient at a time.  Often, these surgeries result in one patient waiting under anesthesia for a doctor who is simultaneously operating on another patient.  According to a survey conducted by the Globe of 47 hospitals across the country, “it is common for surgeons to start a second operation before the first is complete[.]”  Many times, the procedures are “deliberately scheduled” to run at the same time.  Often patients are never told of the double-booking.

Simultaneous surgeries have been the subject of debate for some time now.  Many medical professionals insist the practice is safe and efficient.  Others believe it is a violation of the patients’ trust and could lead to unsafe situations.  Medicare allows surgeons to bill for concurrent surgeries, but doctors have to be careful: if “critical” procedures are performed by unsupervised students or residents, there could be significant penalties.

The Boston Globe report has apparently opened a dialogue about the practice.  Many hospitals and oversight groups are examining their policies to determine if simultaneous surgeries can be performed better.

What do you think about simultaneous surgeries?