Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Surgical error reduction promised in new AiR system

Allegheny County recorded 281 filings of medical negligence cases in 2012 out of more than 1,500 cases statewide, according to the most up-to-date Pennsylvania court records. Plaintiffs statewide were awarded damages in 28 medical malpractice lawsuits that year, including three judgments exceeding $10 million.

The number of filings was the second highest in the state, after Philadelphia. The statistics did not break down the nature of the alleged errors involved nor did they account for appeals of court decisions. The number of Allegheny County claims fell dramatically since around the turn of the century, when an average of 396 cases was filed.

Since no human is fault-free, the elimination of surgeons' mistakes, improper use of medical equipment and other errors may be impossible. However, at least one software inventor is hoping technology will reduce the risk of mistakes in operating rooms.

The 37-year-old created patient safety software call AiR that allows surgeons to voice activate and view a monitor containing a patient's complete medical record. The surgeon and staff can double check the patient's identity, the scheduled procedure, and the site of the surgery on the patient's body.

AiR provides a checklist, which prevents surgical equipment or other objects from being left inside a patient. A video of the surgery is also recorded. The software is meant to act as a backup system for whatever patient safety rules already are in place.

The entrepreneur is introducing the AiR software at a large medical convention later this month, with the hope of finding enough encouragement and support to attract a business partner. The goal is to have hospitals nationwide use AiR to curb surgical errors.

Technological advances can delegate some responsibility for patient safety to non-human sources. However, humans are behind every device used in health care. The manufacturers of medical equipment and devices may be held liable for defective products that cause patient harm.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, "Entrepreneur's software keeps surgeons in check" Marni Jameson, Feb. 02, 2014

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