How Clinicians Are Using Video-Based Observation Research While Maintaining Patient Privacy

How Clinicians Are Using Video-Based Observation Research While Maintaining Patient Privacy

Video observation provides extensive benefits for primary healthcare providers using observational research to improve patient outcomes. Having a record of interactions makes it easy to review a recording to clarify points of confusion, but it also creates a valuable resource for research purposes.

Since primary care aims to create optimal health outcomes for patients, it’s critical to identify which system components influence patient outcome measures. Measures like trust, satisfaction, and adherence to treatment are just a few examples of influential components. When these (and other) influential components are analyzed, the results can improve patient outcomes.

Although primary care research has been traditionally performed with manual observation, recorded video observation is superior.

What role does video observation play in primary care research?

When researchers observe primary care encounters live, it’s hard to document all the details required to conduct thorough research. Often, many things are happening simultaneously, and researchers can only focus on one or two things at a time. The more their attention is diverted, the less accurate their observations.

Recording primary care encounters through video creates an accurate record of events, which allows researchers to review recordings to compare with their notes.

Video observation for research isn’t new

Although many healthcare providers don’t use video observation, it’s been around for some time. Primary care researchers began recording encounters in the 1970s to analyze the way doctors communicated with their patients. After analyzing the recorded encounters, researchers realized that a doctor’s communication style influenced patient satisfaction. The data was then used to help doctors improve their communication skills.

Research data based on recorded primary care counters have also been used to improve the design of exam rooms, including the spatial organization and placement of equipment.

The data collected from those early studies proved extremely useful. However, it wasn’t as secure as it should have been. That may not have been as much of a problem as it would be today considering the internet didn’t exist back then.

Today, mostly because of the internet, the risks of unsecured video observation are vast. Video observation files are stored on cloud servers, which means they’re accessible via the internet. That’s both a convenience and a concern.

Thankfully, it’s possible to record encounters securely and keep that data secure throughout the entire research process. The key is choosing the right video observation software that uses encryption and provides a secure way for authorized users to access the video files.

Today’s video observation methods are secure

All video observation recordings must comply with HIPAA. HIPAA-compliant video recording has been a challenge for many organizations. It’s not the recording itself that creates violations, but rather some kind of user error that results in a breach.Stolen laptops, for example, account for over 50% of all data breaches that violate HIPAA.

With all the advances in IT security, today’s video observation methods can be easily secured provided all the proper protocols are followed. For example, a good video recording system will provide:

  • Cloud storage. Storing video files in the cloud is more secure than storing files on a laptop. A physical cloud server located in a properly secured data center is less likely to get stolen than a laptop.
  • Encryption and decryption. Video files can be encrypted end-to-end, which makes files unreadable to anyone without a decryption key.
  • Access control. Cloud-based file storage systems can grant users access individually or by group settings.
  • Privacy. Video files can be stored without being accompanied by any personal information about the subjects, like names, addresses, or social security numbers.
  • Activity logs and audits. When a user logs in, makes changes, or views a video, those actions are recorded in the activity log. The log can be audited at any time.

Primary health encounters can be complex – video observation helps

When conducting ethnographic research, it’s difficult to capture the complexities of primary care encounters using traditional observational methods. Studies have shown that video observation makes it easy to capture those complexities, which improves patient outcomes and satisfaction.

One study analyzed nine case studies conducted between 2004-2011 using video observation to collect data within the healthcare system. The researchers concluded that insights gathered from video observation are “far more realistic” compared to traditional observational methods. The researchers also concluded that information gathered from video observation can be used to improve health information technology (HIT).

Video observation provides in-depth insight

There’s no doubt that video observation supports physicians in transforming the primary care experience and improving patient outcomes. With a focus on security, video observation will quickly become the standard for primary care and health information technology research.