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More video recording by doctors urged to improve patient safety

Some researchers are pushing for hospitals to videotape more medical procedures to improve the quality and safety of patient care.
(Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times)

Doctors increasingly treat people using tiny cameras, and some patient-safety experts are urging physicians to hit the record button.

Marty Makary, a surgeon at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and author of a bestselling book on patient safety, said two examples of video recording show the potential benefits for both patients and doctors.

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At Indiana University, he said, researchers recorded 98 colonoscopies performed by seven gastroenterologists. They were unaware that they were being filmed and researchers found wide variations in quality.

After telling them they were being filmed, the mean inspection time increased 49% and the quality of inspection improved 31%.

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“There is tremendous potential if we want to take quality to the next level and get serious about waste in healthcare,” Makary said. “We should utilize the record button that is already there on these devices.”

In an essay last week for the Journal of the American Medical Assn., Makary also cited the example of Long Island’s North Shore University Hospital, which installed cameras to monitor hand washing among its medical staff. As a result, compliance increased from 6.5% to 81.6%.

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Makary is scheduled to testify Thursday on this issue and other patient-safety matters at a congressional hearing in Washington.

Quiz: How much do you know about healthcare?

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Experts say safeguards must be in place to ensure patient privacy isn’t compromised from video recording.

Some hospitals and doctors have expressed concerns that these recordings would encourage more malpractice suits. Makary said there were similar fears when patients began getting access to their CT and MRI scans, and he said this development didn’t drive up litigation.

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Some researchers say doctors have much to gain from these videos, similar to how professional athletes watch game tape to detect flaws and hone their technique.

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