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Body cameras in healthcare

dr_cameraMuch of the post-Ferguson conversation has been around cameras that might be mounted on more police officers.  Already in use in some places for the protection of the public (and sometimes, the police) from false reporting of crimes, these cameras are not limited to improving security.

Fans of author David Eggers may recall that in his recent novel The Circle (an internet age 1984 story), the fictional combo Amazon/Google monster known as The Circle mounts cameras on all of its employees. From there, it moves on to bringing truth (or at least truthiness) to the political sphere when politicians try to outdo each other for the title of “most transparent” by agreeing to wear cameras provided by The Circle.  Needless to say, this puts immense power in the hands of the three mysterious founders of The Circle, and drama and sadness follow.

Closer to reality, all of this camera action causes a new set of risk management challenges.  Cops with cameras will most likely be more concerned about good behavior, and members of the public will be less likely to file false police brutality claims if more policy activity is documented on film.  The inexactness of the technology is demonstrated however, by the disconnect between a grand jury’s analysis of the well-filmed Garner case on Staten Island and public opinion of the film’s contents.  While a criminal case may not rise out of the activity of the police there, you can be certain that there will be a civil lawsuit with a lot of money at stake, not to mention public entity insurers chewing their fingernails about the likelihood of much more activity.

In addition to law enforcement, workplace cameras have also become more commonplace throughout the healthcare industry as well.  Doctors are frequently using their phones to take shots of clinical situations, according to conversations within healthcare risk management circles.  Most of the time it is for dermatology, skin cancer or other topical conditions.  But, at least one of the most obvious risks seems to be unrecognized – the use of personal camera phones by doctors and nurse practitioners for these purposes.  Taking a picture of a patient’s mole and attaching it to a file for review by the specialist may save time and be a good marker for future comparison, but if it is taken by a phone that the NP also uses for personal use, real trouble can ensue. The situation is no different than if the pictures were to end up on a personal laptop – all it takes is for the device to be stolen or lost, and those photos could end up in the hands of a stranger or posted publicly on social media sites.

The solution, still not readily available, is to fully secure phone cameras that immediately store clinical photos in the cloud, and then erase the contents from the camera.  We hear that these are being developed by one or more of the major camera companies.  In the meantime, healthcare organizations should review their internal processes and consider putting limits on the use of personal camera phones for clinical usage.


About the Author

PhilEdmundsonPhil Edmundson is the Chairman and CEO of WGA, insurance brokers and consultants for businesses with over 30 years in the insurance industry. He manages strategy, talent acquisition and development, and management / acquisitions at WGA.

617.646.0229 | PEdmundson@wgains.com | Connect with Phil on LinkedIn |
Follow Phil @PhilEdmundson
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