Black box recorders used on every aircraft are transforming and migrating into hospital operating rooms.
According to the Wall Street Journal, a technology that goes by the same name, OR Black Box, captures nearly everything in an OR during surgery.
The devices capture audio, video, patient vital signs, and data from surgical instruments in 24 hospitals in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.
OR Black Box systems analyze operating room practices to aid in reducing medical errors, improving patient safety, and making operating rooms more efficient.
According to the WSJ, it can also help hospitals determine what happens if a particular operation goes wrong and view performance over time.
“These data allow team members to see the action from multiple perspectives, not just what their own eyes and ears have registered and what they recall from memory,” Susan Hallbeck, professor at the Mayo Clinic, told the WSJ.
The new system has raised some concerns among operating room personnel in some hospitals.
According to the WSJ, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center uses five black boxes to understand what characterizes high-performing operating room teams.
However, when UT Southwestern introduced the OR Black Box technology in 2020, some hospital personnel worried the data would be used for punitive purposes, Dr. William Daniel, UT Southwestern’s chief quality officer, told the WSJ. However, the hospital reassured medical staff about “how data would be collected and used, it quickly became an accepted part of the hospital’s culture,” Daniel said.
Another concern is whether data collected by black box technology could become evidence in a malpractice lawsuit.
Richard Epstein, a law professor at New York University, believes the information could end up in legal disputes.
“In the medical world, there is a great deal of strong judicial and medical oversight, and ultimately it won’t be up to any institution to determine or limit the purposes for which the information is used,” Epstein told the Journal.
However, because black boxes are relatively new, they are an untested area of law. As a result, if a case involves the new technology as potential evidence, “nobody knows what will happen,” Epstein told the WSJ. “Legal protections are not clear-cut and are uncertain until tested by litigation and/or legislation.”
Read more in the Wall Street Journal.
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