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Could Video Cameras in the OR Prevent Wrong-Site Surgery?

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, July 14, 2011

"I had a constituent whose mother passed away during a routine surgery, and he said he never got the answer he should have about why. So he came up with the idea of placing a video camera in the operating room," Walsh explained in a telephone interview. 

"The idea had legs, but the hospital association and others were opposed, pointing to liability issues, and that it's an expense to the hospital, because it would have to wire the operating rooms," he says.

But the bill remains viable, despite that opposition. Walsh says using video recording could provide a way for the patient or family "to review what happened in the operating room in the event of a complication."

"There's going to be a lot of discussion of how this could be a useful tool for hospital administrators," Walsh continues. "I know that a lot of people are looking at this as an obstacle but at the end of the day, this could emerge as a positive tool to prevent errors.”

In Rhode Island, state health officials have issued a consent decree for 719-bed Rhode Island Hospital in Providence to begin using cameras in the operating room after five wrong-site surgeries occurred there between 2007 and 2009. Each of the hospital's 379 surgeons must be recorded on video during two of their procedures each year, and they don't know when those times might be.

The randomly assigned cameras have been streaming operations live so they  can be seen in realtime by an observer in another room. No digital or print records are kept.

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