Proposals for increased documentation of medical care scare health care providers, institutions

In the legal world, a great deal of importance is placed upon documentation, and for good reason. Documentation is an important way to ensure accountability and liability for those who fail to do their duty under the law. The question raised in a recent Washington Post article is: could better documentation help reduce medical errors in the United States? And, if so, how should documentation be improved?

These are important questions, especially given the fact that roughly 400,000 people die every year in the United States because of preventable medical error. In many cases, family members of victims of medical error are left without recourse because they have no way to prove that the health care providers involved in their loved one’s case were negligent. More and more people, recognizing this situation, are calling for hospitals to routinely make video and audio recordings of medical and surgical procedures.

The benefits of this approach would not be one-sided. One benefit of recording surgeries for physicians, of course, is that they would be able to look back at their performance and determine how to improve their technique—kind of like a post-game assessment. Video and audio recordings would be an obvious solution to the problem. As it stands, it can be very difficult for plaintiffs to obtain sufficient evidence of what really happened between a doctor and patient.

Not surprisingly, there has been resistance to the idea if requiring operating room cameras, partly because of concerns about the impact of video evidence on medical malpractice litigation and privacy concerns. Needless to say, there is a long way to go before the approach is adopted by hospitals nationwide, though there is currently a bill in Wisconsin that would require cameras in every operating room throughout the state.

In our next post, we’ll continue looking at this issue, especially the importance of working with an experienced legal advocate when pursuing medical malpractice litigation.



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