ecri institute ranks top 10 health hazards for 2013 part two

In our previous post, we discussed how the Pennsylvania-based ECRI Institute recently released its Top 10 Health Technology Hazards Report for 2013. Now in its sixth year of publication, the report is intended “to raise awareness of the potential dangers associated with the use of medical devices and systems.”

To recap, ECRI identified the following health technology hazards as numbers ten through six:

  • Surgical fires (10)
  • Distractions posed by smart phones and other devices (9)
  • Failure to properly process endoscopic devices and other surgical instruments (8)
  • Failure to account for the needs of pediatric patients when using medical technology for adult patients (7)
  • Air embolism (6)

What then are the remaining health technology hazards of 2013?

5. Interoperability failures: Like it or not, computer systems are becoming an important part of medical care. While proponents laud their convenience, ECRI points out that communication between these systems relies on accurate data transmission/input, and that even the smallest error can have dramatic consequences. Patients are therefore encouraged to verify the information if possible, while medical providers are encouraged to verify that systems are operating properly.

4. Data mismatches in electronic medical records: Similarly, electronic medical records are becoming more common in healthcare facilities. However, they can also contain vital mistakes due to data transmission errors or software glitches. Once again, patients are encouraged to examine their records carefully, and ensure that any and all updates are accurate.

3. Exposure to radiation: Advancements in imagining technology have resulted in medical professionals relying more and more on procedures like CT scans for providing accurate diagnoses. However, ECRI points out that statistics have linked exposure to the radiation from CT scans to 29,000 cancer cases a year. Patients are encouraged to discuss any concerns about overexposure to radiation with their physician and whether there is a viable alternative that uses less radiation (i.e., an MRI).

2. Infusion/drug pumps: These medical devices are used to deliver medication to a patient intravenously. However, if a medical professional somehow makes a mistake setting up the machine (wrong number, misplaced decimal point, etc.) the patient can be given a wrong — and potentially lethal — dosage. Patients are encouraged to discuss their medication with their treating physician and inquire about potential side effects.

1. Alarm hazards: Shockingly, ECRI determined that medical professionals in hospital settings are so bombarded with various patient alarms throughout the course of their work that they sometimes overlook them. (Think of a car alarm going off in your neighborhood every night.) Health care workers are encouraged to take the time to familiarize themselves with not only the health status of their patients, but also with the functions performed by the various health machines — patient monitors, ventilators, dialysis machines, infusion pumps, etc. — they encounter.

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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