In the wake of the public outcry surrounding the deaths of several men at the hands of police officers, it's looking like bodycams may soon become a standard part of an officer's gear. Officers have had dashboard cams in their cars for many years, and this is another step in the same direction.
But why stop with police officers? After all, bodycams fit on labcoats and scrubs just as well as they do on police uniforms. And I'd argue that healthcare workers are actually in an even better position to benefit from these cams than police officers.
Of course, hospital staff and clinicians might feel nervous about wearing bodycams at first. But for healthcare organizations serious about patient outcomes, reduced liability, fewer lawsuits and, yes, increased accountability, bodycams could open the door to untold efficiencies and benefits.
Start with the ED
The promise of bodycam technology is far-reaching, but perhaps the most obvious place to use bodycams is in the emergency department.
As we all know, the ED is healthcare on fast-forward, with many situations depending on fast and painstakingly accurate medical decisions and execution. It's also the first look many patients get at a hospital, and one of its chief sources of revenue; Nationally, EDs see 129 million patients per year at present, according to CDC estimates.
So, it makes perfect sense to have a device that records every nuance of the patient care in the ED. Not only could clinicians prove they'd done the right thing, they could analyze video logs to see where they could improve. What's more, bodycams could also offer a useful record of routine staff interactions with patients. Just by reviewing such videos, and taking corrective actions where needed, hospitals could probably raise their patient satisfaction scores substantially.
Getting doctors on board
While doctors might bristle at the idea of bodycams at first, the idea of protecting themselves from groundless malpractice suits would probably bring them around quickly.
After all, as we reported a couple of months ago, a New England Journal of Medicine study revealed emergency medicine doctors are still practicing "defensive medicine," even after key malpractice laws changed to give them breathing room last year.
Bodycams could help ED physicians relax, because they wouldn't have to worry as much about witness statements regarding their performance. The cams can capture every choice made by doctors, with a timestamp to back it up, freeing doctors to just be doctors, instead of worrying about how their every word or movement might be interpreted by patients unfamiliar with procedure.
A major change
Admittedly, it would be a major change if a hospital decided to make all ED employees and clinicians wear bodycams. Though their work is already tightly monitored and follows strict protocols, having bodycams track their work would be another thing entirely.
And many cash-strapped facilities might not be able to afford bodycams for their ED staff, as a single cam can cost as much as $400.
But if a hospital can pay for bodycams, it’s probably a good idea to pilot test them in the ED. The benefits are likely to far outweigh the cost.