Could recording surgeries reduce medical errors?

Reducing medical errors is a major priority for the healthcare industry, and now legislators and patient safety advocates are exploring a potential solution to the problem: Cameras in the operating room.

It's often difficult to pinpoint the precise cause of a medical error, according to the Washington Post, a fact that has driven a movement to require audio and video recording of surgical procedures.

Teodor P. Grantcharov, a professor of surgery at the University of Toronto, has developed a "black box" that aligns patients' physical data to audio and video recordings, giving surgeons access to an "instant replay" of a procedure. Grantcharov told the Post two American hospital systems have agreed to test the device.

Meanwhile, legislation introduced in Wisconsin would require cameras in every operating room in the state in the wake of Wisconsin woman Julie Ayer Rubenzer's death from being given excessive amounts of the anesthetic propofol during a breast enhancement surgery, according to the article. Cameras also could discourage clinicians from disruptive or disrespectful behavior, as in the recent case of a patient who inadvertently recorded his surgical team mocking him, Rubenzer's brother Wade Ayer, who helped draft the bill, told the Post.

Without recordings, determining exactly where a procedure went wrong means trying to piece it together with a combination of notes and potentially faulty memories. Ayer said. Recording them, on the other hand, "offers transparency, truth and accuracy in collecting data for the medical record and testimony," he added. "It offers data and insight for medical boards and even prosecutors. It offers oversight and policing."

The hospital industry may be a tougher sell on the idea. Current American Medical Association policy encourages filming procedures for educational purposes, but only with explicit patient consent. And in other cases, the industry, wary of lawsuits, has actively stymied the movement to record procedures. The hospital lobby in Massachusetts has led the fight against repeated attempts to require providers to allow recording by a licensed videographer, according to the article.

To learn more:
- here's the article
- check out the bill

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