ecri institute ranks top 10 health hazards for 2013 part one

Earlier this month, ECRI Institute — a Pennsylvania-based organization dedicated to the advancement of patient care — released its hotly anticipated list outlining the top ten health technology hazards for 2013. As expected, the list was not short on surprises.

Described by the non-profit as a means “to raise awareness of the potential dangers associated with the use of medical devices and systems,” the list includes only those hazards that satisfied one or all of the following criteria:

  • It caused an injury or death
  • It occurred frequently
  • It has the potential to affect a large number of people
  • It can be difficult to identify
  • It has enjoyed media exposure or a high profile

Interestingly, this year’s list contains multiple hazards that are either directly related or peripherally related to health IT systems.

“The inherent complexity of HIT-related medical technologies, their potential to introduce new failure modes, and the possibility that such failures will affect many patients before being noticed … leads us to encourage healthcare facilities to pay particular attention to health IT when prioritizing their safety initiatives for 2013,” said an ECRI Institute official.

What then are the top ten health technology hazards of 2013?

10. Surgical fires: ECRI estimates that 600 surgical fires take place in the U.S. each year and that they can be especially devastating if they occur near the face or neck due to breathing tubes leaking oxygen. Patients are encouraged to ask surgeons if supplemental oxygen will be used in the procedure and, if so, what fire prevention measures are in place.

9. Distractions posed by smart phones and other devices: Unbelievably, ECRI has found that smart phone and other wireless devices are rapidly becoming more of a problem, distracting medical professionals from their duties. Patients who encounter this scenario are encouraged to speak up.

8. Failure to properly process endoscopic devices and other surgical instruments: Failure to properly clean, disinfect and/or sterilize endoscopic devices and surgical instruments can result in potentially deadly infections. Patients are encouraged to inquire about a medical facility’s cleaning procedures if they are concerned.

7. Failure to account for the needs of pediatric patients when using medical technology for adult patients: ECRI indicates that pediatric care can be rendered far less effective or even made potentially dangerous if medical technology otherwise designed for adults is not properly adapted. Parents are encouraged to ask medical providers if the equipment being used is set up for pediatric patients, particularly in non-children’s hospitals.

6. Air embolism: For those unfamiliar with this potentially fatal phenomenon, it is when air bubbles are present in IV tubing. Although advancements in medical technology have made this rare, it has still been known to occur. ECRI encourages patients to notify medical professionals if they observe air bubbles larger than an inch in IV lines.

To be continued …

Please see our medical negligence page for more in-depth information about the mistakes that health care facilities routinely make.

Sources: The Philadelphia Inquirer, “The top ten hospital hazards,” Nov. 5, 2012; ECRI Institute, “ECRI Institute releases Top 10 Health Technology Hazards Report for 2013,” Nov. 5, 2012

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