Northwell prioritizes patient safety with cutting-edge technology

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Northwell's Long Island Jewish Medical Center is the first hospital in the nation to use OR Black Box technology. (Photo courtesy of Northwell Health)

Northwell Health is putting cutting-edge “black box” technology in operating rooms to enhance the safety and well-being of patients.

Operating rooms in Long Island Jewish Medical Center will be the first in the nation to use a technology called OR Black Box, according to a news release from Northwell. 

The technology, consisting of video cameras and microphones, monitors various activities and machines in the operating room and produces data that gives medical professionals more insight into how a patient’s surgical experience can be improved.

“I think it is very innovative for Northwell to be the first health system in the United States to use this technology,” said Dr. Mark Jarrett, Northwell senior vice president. “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.”

OR Black Box was created by the Canadian medical technology start-up company Surgical Safety Technologies. The Black Box has been used by surgeons in Canada and Europe for the past two years.

The inventor of the OR Black Box said the technology has come a long way since the first prototype was developed in 2014.

“I’m absolutely convinced that this will change the way we practice surgery and bring a level of openness, transparency and accountability,” said the OR Black Box inventor, Dr. Teodor Grantcharov. “No one would question the value and the impact the black box has made in the aviation industry.”

Much like a flight data recorder, which uses recorded data from a variety of aircraft sensors to analyze specific aircraft performance parameters, the black box gathers data to analyze a surgical procedure.

Once recorded, the data gets synchronized and reconstructed for examination to discover what improvements can be made. While the technology can pick up the buzz of a cellphone, it is not invasive in regard to a patient’s health or medical history.

“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,” Jarrett said. “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.”

Dr. Louis Kavoussi, the urology chair at Northwell, was the first Northwell surgeon to use the technology.  Kavoussi praised the advanced technology as it helps Northwell and soon other hospitals prioritize patient safety more going forward.

“I think this technology is important because it begins to dissect out potential issues that can adversely affect patient outcomes in the operating room – and the operating room itself has been a black box,” Kavoussi said. “This is an opportunity to start analyzing what happens in the operating room to see if there are ways of improving patient outcomes further.”

Kavoussi, who has been practicing in the medical field for almost 30 years, said that the technology has aided him in perfecting his operations and warding off potential hazards to patients.

“When I was a resident, I used to look at my own surgeries on VHS tapes and I realized there were so many things that I could have done better,” Kavoussi said. “That’s when I realized that we need a better system of providing feedback that could help us critically reflect on our performance. Because this is the only way we can improve.”

Northwell said it is preparing to expand OR Black Box use at other hospitals in its system. 

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