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.