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Will Black Boxes Shed Light On Surgical Errors?

A New York health system has announced that it will be testing the use of “black box technology” in its operating rooms in order to collect more information during surgeries. Northwell Health has announced that it is piloting the technology in order to improve the quality of patient care.

Black Box Operating Room systems are similar to the flight recorders used in aviation; a black box captures video footage, audio recordings, and physiological data during a procedure. After that procedure, information gathered is compiled into a report that can be used use for care-quality reviews. The technology is highlighted in a new documentary on medical errors, entitled To Err is Human.

Eight years ago, Dr. Teodor Grantcharov, professor of surgery at the University of Toronto, collaborated with computer specialists to develop a black box for the OR. He performed under total supervision by cameras placed throughout his OR, and he trained analysts to log his team’s every movement before, during, and after the surgery.

Many are hopeful that these black boxes can reduce medical errors.  The box can capture and record technical errors, as well as potential lapses in communication between the members of the team. Breaking down an operation in this way can isolate the sources of errors and help the surgical team to address them so that they don’t happen again.

The Northwell pilot program will involve the use of black box technology by laparoscopic urologic and colon surgical teams in two operating rooms at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York City. Northwell has become the first health system in the United States to pilot this technology.

According to Dr. Mark Jarrett, the Senior Vice President and Chief Quality Officer at Northwell, “The OR is the one place that nobody has ever really studied well. Yet, we know that surgical cases can be very complex and risky. The OR Black Boxes enables surgical teams to learn, minimize risk, and improve care. It is a proactive approach to improving safety and replicating favorable practices. The data collected is all secure, and the names of the patients, surgeons, and all the individual cases are not identified, so everybody’s privacy is protected.” 

Medical Malpractice Representation

Implementing black box technology could have a significant impact on surgical errors. However, it may take several years before such technology is widely used in other hospitals. Surgical errors can have devastating consequences for victims and their families. It can be difficult to ascertain whether or not an error was made during surgery, and all too often victims do not become aware of a surgical error until weeks, months, or even years after the fact due to secondary complications, such as an infection. If you think you may have been the victim of a surgical error, contact our team so that we can use our extensive resources to investigate what may have happened and fight to get you the compensation necessary to restore your health.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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