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EMS prehospital documentation accuracy: Can body-worn cameras help?

Posted: May 14, 2018

This article discusses the results of a pilot study where EMS providers used body-worn cameras (BWCs) to see if they could help to improve the accuracy of their prehospital documentation.

EMS prehospital care reports have not been the focus of much research but there is a growing awareness that health care documentation in general is often incomplete and inaccurate.

A team of researchers1 wanted to explore the role that memory error may play in how well EMS providers record prehospital care of patients. Inaccuracy in prehospital documentation can lead directly to negative patient outcomes and potential liability.

Memory is a reconstructive process and not an infallible recording device. Gaps in memory are inevitable and we unconsciously fill in such gaps on the basis of what happened during previous experiences. What causes these gaps in memory? Stress and fatigue are two of the main culprits and they affect even highly experienced paramedics.

The researchers set up a pilot study with Hennepin County (Minnesota) EMS paramedics, who were equipped with head-mounted BWCs attached to clear lens occupational safety glasses. After documenting the event from memory, paramedics then reviewed the video to make any corrections.

Research takeaways

  • This study showed significant errors in documentation by seasoned paramedics. Use of video review during the documentation process effectively reduced errors.
  • Recording EMS-patient interactions may improve patient behavior and resolve complaints against paramedics.
  • BWCs can be used for peer-review, mentoring purposes.
  • A surprise finding was the lack of narrative documentation. Current practice involving use of electronic checkboxes and drop-down menus discourages the capture of narrative feedback from the paramedics. Wider adoption of electronic technology could help fix this problem.

Learn more about this research

For more about this study, read “The Trip Report: Can Body Cameras Improve Documentation?

This research article is also available through our library by contacting Interested readers may be able to access the article through their local library or through the publisher’s website.

1Ho, J D., Dawes, D. M., McKay, E. M., Taliercio, J. J., White, S. D., Woodbury, B. J., Sandefur, M. A., Miner, J.R. (2017). Effect of body-worn cameras on EMS documentation accuracy: a pilot study. Prehospital Emergency Care: 21(2), 263-271.

This summary is for informational purposes only. As such, the content does not reflect any official positions, policies or guidelines on behalf of the sender, the U.S. Fire Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, nor any other federal agencies, departments or contracting entities. Similarly, this summary does not represent in any manner an official endorsement or relationship to any private or public companies, organizations/associations, or any authors or individuals cited or websites associated within the article.

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