Patients are required to put a tremendous amount of trust into their physicians, who perform highly specialized procedures with the potential for tremendous risk. Unless told otherwise, most patients probably assume their surgeon is giving them their undivided attention during an operation. As recent regulatory scrutiny shows, however, the practice of double-booking surgeries occurs in hospitals across the country.The practice of double-booking works as follows. At teaching hospitals, more experienced surgeons train residents or fellows in performing surgeries. That means the attending, or more senior, surgeon can delegate the task of performing different surgeries to different trainees. In practice, the attending surgeon might perform an operation in one room while having a trainee performing a surgery on a different patient in another room.
Double-booking is not prohibited by law, but the policies of hospitals determine whether or not to allow the practice. Reports have alleged that health complications result from double-bookings. For instance, a Boston Globe investigative report noted examples of patients waiting under anesthesia while hospital staff attempted to locate surgeons who were not present. Trainees ended up performing those surgeries without oversight.
The reasons for why this practice has continued vary depending on who is presenting their case. Hospitals argue that it allows more patients to receive treatment because the surgeries are still performed with the utmost care. Critics say that the practice is about physicians bringing in more revenue because they can bill for multiple surgeries and have trainees perform a portion of them.