Amsterdam hosp. to use “black box” to record surgery data

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The AMC hospital in Amsterdam is installing a "black box" in one of its 20 operating theaters on Wednesday - the first Dutch hospital to do so. As in aviation, the black box will track and analyze all surgery information, with the intent of learning from mistakes and increasing patient safety, Volkskrant reports.

The black box stores all information measured by devices in the operating theater - such as the patient's blood pressure, temperature and pulse rate, but also movements of the surgical staff and the number of times the operating room door opens and closes. Video and sound recordings are also made and stored. The black box analyzed the data and "flags" abnormalities, which can be discussed with the surgical team afterwards.

According to the newspaper, some of the black box data will not be included in AMC patient files, such as the video and sound recordings. If something goes wrong, the patient can request the data, but it will be made anonymous (voices and faces will be distorted). This data is also only kept for two days - until after the analysis - and then destroyed.

"We do this because we want to create a safe learning environment for the surgical team", AMC surgeon Marlies Schijven explained to the newspaper. "We do this to learn from it. If people who work here have the idea that things can be used against them, they can find it difficult to work in the operating room. We don't want a blame-and-shame-culture here."

Schijven is performing the first two black-box-recorded surgeries at AMC tomorrow - a gall bladder removal and an esophageal surgery.

The surgery black box was invented by Canadian surgeon Teodor Grantcharov. Like airline black boxes, this one is not literally a black box, but consists of linked together computers.