Cypress Creek EMS to debut body cameras
Paramedics with the Cypress Creek Emergency Medical Services will debut the use of body cameras later this year to record interactions with patients in the field.
“The paramedic cameras will be deployed around the end of the first quarter,” said Norm Uhl, Cypress Creek EMS spokesperson.
Cypress Creek EMS obtained 93 Axon Flex 2 body cameras; however, he said currently only two 24-hour supervisors have begun using them.
Axon, which has previously supplied cameras to law enforcement, is making a push with other first responders as a way to provide doctors or other healthcare providers with more information during emergencies, said spokesperson Madeline Macleod.
“They provide a record of patient encounters, which is useful for determining the best path of care for patients, defending against erroneous claims of misconduct, and allowing paramedics to continually improve by watching and learning from past encounters on video,” she said.
The cameras have a 12-hour batteries and once paramedics reach a hospital with patient in tow, they can show the footage to a doctor through an app.
During a trial period in 2014, CCEMS paramedics used the body cameras and recorded two instances of patients experiencing cardiac arrest who were rushed to area hospitals. It’s unclear how long the trial period lasted.
“Once at the ER, neither patient was showing signs of life. Normal protocol in these circumstances would be to ‘call it’ and mark time of death. However, the paramedics used Axon View to show the ER doctor videos depicting that the patients had in fact been showing significant signs of life on the way to the hospital, which prompted the doctor to make a special call for a cardiologist to come work on the then completely unresponsive patients,” Macleod said.
Recordings of medical patients may raise privacy concerns, including how the footage can be used. By law, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act safeguards patients’ medical history and data collected by health providers.
Barbara Evans, a biotechnology and law professor at the University of Houston, said that video recorded by paramedics that identifies a patient is subject to HIPAA protections.
While healthcare providers, including doctors and paramedics, don’t have restrictions on the amount of data they collect from patients, they are prohibited from releasing or sharing information without consent.
“HIPAA only affects what care providers can do with the data they collect, in terms of storing the data, or sharing it with other users such as researchers and public health officials, or using it for reasons other than using the data to provide healthcare. There wouldn’t really be a problem with collecting bodycam data in the course of treating or transporting a patient. But if the bodycam data are stored for later reference and use, HIPAA affects whether it can be used again, stored, or shared with other people without first getting the patient’s permission,” Evans said.