Healthcare News & Insights

Should cameras be installed in every operating room?

Preventable medical errors are one of the top causes of death in the United States. To help change that, the feds are starting to make hospitals directly responsible for patient outcomes. Some say accountability should go a step further, though, and they’re pushing to have cameras installed in the operating room. 

security cameraA recent article in the Washington Post discusses this phenomenon. The rise in interest in recording surgeries has been driven in part by technological advances – and partially from family members’ desires for answers after loved ones experienced serious complications.

Mandates for cameras

In the past, states have received pushback from healthcare organizations and hospitals when trying to mandate the use of cameras in surgery. So laws weren’t getting anywhere. Massachusetts has unsuccessfully tried to pass a law requiring hospitals to record surgeries for years.

But now Wisconsin may be the first state to successfully implement a law requiring cameras in operating rooms. The legislation was introduced after the death of a woman who received excessive anesthesia during breast-enhancement surgery. One of her family members co-sponsored the law, and it’s currently before the state legislature.

If this law passes, it could turn the tide for allowing procedures to be recorded in hospitals across the country. Lobbyists in Wisconsin are already testing the waters to see if members of Congress would be willing to sponsor a similar national bill.

Technological advances

As of now, facilities that record procedures (mostly for educational purposes when training medical students) opt for traditional methods, using cameras that pick up video and audio. However, other methods are available that paint a clearer picture of a procedure.

The newest technology: a “black box” created by a Canadian surgeon that simultaneously records patients’ health data and the surgical team’s actions and speech.

Essentially, the black box creates a “play-by-play” rendition of the entire procedure and how it affected the patient. This can help a surgical team pick up errors that wouldn’t even be caught by merely reviewing a video alone.

Two hospital systems in the U.S. will be piloting the black box system in the coming months to evaluate its effectiveness in the operating room.

Considerations with cameras

The biggest question that arises from recording surgeries: How will this affect HIPAA compliance in hospitals?

If hospitals decide to record patients, they’ll have to expressly let patients know they’re being recorded and get their consent before procedures take place. Then, they’ll need to take additional security steps when storing the footage. This raises the potential for a data breach – which can cause big legal hassles.

But the upside is that footage can be airtight proof for other lawsuits – especially malpractice cases. If all surgical procedures are followed, and there’s evidence on camera, this can keep hospitals out of hot water when an angry patient or family sues.

Surgeons may feel as though Big Brother’s watching, but cameras in the operating room could keep them from making careless mistakes – or making unprofessional remarks that could also land a hospital in trouble.

A patient in Virginia won $500,000 in a lawsuit because his cell phone inadvertently recorded medical staff saying inappropriate things about him during a colonoscopy – including purposely misdiagnosing his condition. Cameras could stop similar shenanigans from happening in your operating rooms.

Plus, reviewing footage could help surgeons refine their techniques – like athletes, they can use the video and audio recordings to point out deficiencies and create a better strategy for the next procedure. And in case a mistake happens, the footage could be used as a training tool to prevent similar issues with future surgeries.

Recording surgeries as a routine practice has numerous benefits and drawbacks. But it has the potential to revolutionize health care by reducing never-events and preventable harm to patients. So don’t be surprised if it becomes common practice (or even a requirement) in the near future.

What do you think of using cameras in the operating room? Is it a good idea, or too risky to be considered? Let us know in the comments.

  • Mike Lowery

    I’m 100% behind the idea of recording every surgery in every operating room. This situation is so under publicized due to the big money of healthcare. Surgeons are protected from criminal liability in most cases due to they hide behind insurance companies and their “Doctorhood” … All patients shouldn’t haven’t to worry about being misdiagnosed because a more internal surgery pays more. Second opinions should be mandatory and their should be a waver signed by patient if they do not comply. Overall the addition of cameras in operating rooms brings accountability to a field that is supposed to be there to heal not to deceive for monetary benefits. Thank you and would to continue conversation needs to be addressed with more ATTENTION#CamerasNeeded

  • in the case of the safest industry, Aviation staff and pilots have lived for ever with their every move and every word being recorded in the interest of safety. Why can’t the same apply to operating room. How imminent are cameras in the operating theatre, give it a hundred years. Medical establishment is solidly against it, it is very wealthy and influential. Citizen or the patient doesn’t stand a chance. Everything is stacked against the patient. In case of shit hitting the fan, the hospitals want to be no more than unrelated bystanders. Neither hospitals nor the medical profession are interested in truth being known. Of course there are lots of red herrings like patient privacy, staff privacy, costs of equipment, maintenance, storage of data and when does the recording start and end, and should audio be included in recorded data. These issues have no chance of being sorted cause medical profession hasn’t yet solved the riddle of how to see patients with in an hour of appointment time.

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