Smartphones are everywhere these days, it seems, and more and more individuals are using them to record interactions with doctors. Many might remember a case in June of 2015, when a Virginia man was awarded $500,000 after recording his doctor mocking and insulting him during a medical procedure that was performed in 2013. Such smartphone recordings are becoming increasingly common in medical offices around the world. When brought before a court in the event of misconduct or a mishap, however, such recordings are often disregarded because even the best smartphone may not record every aspect of a surgical procedure or the entire interaction between the patient and the doctor.
For some time now, many advocates have argued that video cameras and audio recordings can improve accountability, enhance medical providers’ performance, and improve the healthcare system overall. In fact, studies have shown that workers demonstrate increased compliance with guidelines and protocols when they know they are being observed. Unfortunately, even the installation of audio video cameras in operating rooms leaves much to be desired.
Surgical Black Box
Researchers in Canada, however, have developed a surgical “black box”, similar to the ones in airplanes, that has the capability to record the movements of surgeons and warn them when mistakes are made. Unlike the black boxes in aviation which are reviewed after an accident occurs, the surgical device will be able to help prevent major complications from occurring. Benefits of the device include:
- Physicians and their peers will be able to evaluate the entire procedure including everything ranging from how well the surgeons stitch to how well they communicate with operating staff during periods of high stress.
- Help surgeons identify their mistakes. On average, surgeons make about 20 mistakes per surgery.
The Healthcare Quality Improvement Act
In the United States, courts are prevented from using any data that’s used for peer review under the Healthcare Quality Improvement Act. The law is designed to allow doctors and hospitals to review each other without fear of litigation. Cases that are recorded and are not used for peer review, however, are admissible in court. Whether or not the black boxes will be able to be used as evidence in medical malpractice cases is yet to be seen. Experts claim that even if the black boxes never make it into the courtroom, they will be a useful tool in helping to prevent medical malpractice cases, which is the primary goal in the first place.