Use of operating room cameras proposed to protect patients from errors

Video recordings of operating room procedures show potential to reduce common surgical errors and provide clearer evidence in medical malpractice claims.

Each year, medical errors claim an estimated 4,000 lives across the U.S., making these errors one of the country's top causes of death, according to The Washington Post. The factors that underlie these errors can be complex and typically vary by procedure, patient and healthcare provider. Tragically, though, many of these errors are preventable.

To reduce an especially dangerous category of medical errors, surgical mistakes and complications, safety advocates have recently proposed stricter oversight of operating room procedures. Specifically, advocates have called for the use of cameras to record surgeries, provide professional feedback and create an official record of any errors that do occur.

Identifying and reducing errors

By creating a clearer record of surgical procedures and mishaps, operating room cameras could provide multiple benefits. With operating room recordings, surgical staff could more easily identify errors or close calls, analyze what went wrong and adjust their techniques in the future. Additionally, victims of errors would have stronger evidence to support any necessary claims of medical malpractice or negligence.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, researchers in Canada are currently producing a system that offers all of these benefits and more. The "black box" is designed to capture video and audio recordings of both surgical procedures and operating room staff. Eventually, the technology will actively identify errors as they occur and provide surgical staff with live feedback, thereby preventing needless mistakes.

Issues with introducing cameras

Although operating room cameras promise various benefits, patients shouldn't necessarily expect to see widespread use of this technology in the near future. Healthcare providers have expressed doubts about using the technology, citing the following concerns:

  • Privacy issues - in many cases, patients may support recordings. However, critics worry about the ramifications for doctors and other surgical staff members.
  • Incomplete information - critics note that capturing every aspect of a surgical procedure on camera can be difficult. Incomplete recordings might not yield useful insights, and they may even provide harmfully misleading information.
  • Technological limitations - feedback from the black box or a similar device might only be effective for common textbook procedures. This technology may not offer benefits for people undergoing more rare or tailored surgeries.

These concerns may prevent the implementation of operating room camera systems, since hospitals currently have discretion in permitting recordings. No state requires healthcare providers to allow patients to record surgical procedures, according to The Washington Post. However, pending legislation in Wisconsin could change this. If the bill succeeds, similar measures in other states, including Rhode Island, could open the door to the use of operating room cameras and the associated safety benefits.

Addressing errors that weren't prevented

Unfortunately, until healthcare providers adopt more measures to prevent surgical mistakes and other medical errors, these lapses may harm countless people. Patients in Rhode Island who have suffered harm from this substandard care should consider seeking recourse by pursuing compensation for their economic losses, health complications and general suffering. A malpractice attorney may be able to better help victims understand these options and seek appropriate redress.