The New York Police Department recently spearheaded a program to equip all officers with body cameras. But the NYPD was not the first law enforcement group to try this. In a study from Rialto, California, designated officers wore body cams while other officers did not. One year later, the officers that were assigned body cams saw a 50 percent reduction in use-of-force. The number of complaints made against officers that year plummeted from 24 to only three complaints.
The positive effect of body cams in the field of law enforcement is apparent. Those results have us wondering if body cameras could be useful in the field of medicine. Many high-risk medical fields such as neurosurgery and obstetrics have a very high litigation rate. The use of cameras might help cut down on that rate through a better understanding of when and why medical mistakes occur.
Medical Malpractice Claims
A study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine revealed that 7.4 percent of all physicians have had a malpractice case filed against them. The proportion of physicians facing a clam each year ranged from 19.1% in neurosurgery to 18.9% in thoracic-cardiovascular surgery and 15.3% in general surgery. Non-surgical specialties saw smaller percentages, such as 5.2% in family medicine, 3.1% in pediatrics and 2.6% in psychiatry.
Among indemnity payments in the case studies, the average amount was $274,887. By the time they reach the age of 65, 99% of physicians in high-risk specialties will have faced a malpractice claim.
Med-Cams in Doctor Patient Interactions?
The med-cam could serve as a record of the discussion between the doctor and patient leading up to and after the procedure. It could also record any tests and diagnoses discussed between patient and doctor. In addition, the med-cam would allow experts to review footage of the surgery or procedure in question, providing a visual record and quickly clarifying the grounds of a malpractice claim.
While cameras have for years been part of the medical landscape for ER trauma doctors and nurses and in other areas such as the colonoscopy suite, taking the step from cameras mounted on the wall to cameras worn on the body during procedures is a process that would have to be carried out carefully.
In addition to serving as a record of all doctor and patient interactions, the physician-worn body cam may offer some benefit to doctors and nurses that have been forced to deal with violent patients. Some violent patients may refrain from acting out if they know their behavior is being recorded.
Time for a Pilot Program
While body cameras have brought positive effects in other professional fields, med-cams would need to be thoughtfully piloted and introduced into the medical field. Recording medical interactions with a body cam is a new idea and is bound to run into opposition from both doctors and patients. Even so, if cameras can improve the care of patients, the peace of mind of medical professionals and the clarity of serious malpractice claims, med-cams are certainly worth investigating.