examining the top ten medical technology hazards of 2015

Last week, we discussed how the Pennsylvania-based ECRI Institute recently released its Top 10 Health Technology Hazards report outlining the dangers that hospitals must pay attention to and, if necessary, take steps to rectify in 2015.

In today’s post, we’ll start to take a closer look at the first three hazards outlined in the 30-page report.

1. Alarm hazards

According to the ECRI Institute, the single biggest technological danger facing U.S. hospitals are alarm-related adverse events, such as missed patient alarms or intentionally ignored patient alarms attributable to alarm fatigue (i.e., hospital staff hear so many false alarms during the course of a single shift that they simply start to ignore them).

Here, the report advises hospitals to improve their alarm configuration practices and policies such that officials not only set alarm limits, but also set the conditions under which these alarms should be activated by care unit and by patients within these care units. Establishing these practices and policies, argues the ECRI, will lend a greater sense of urgency and response to patient alarms, while combating the problem of alarm fatigue.

2. Data integrity

If you’ve been to a doctor’s office, clinic or hospital anytime in the last few years, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that the traditional paper charts are being phased out in favor of electronic medical records.

While having a single patient chart with the most up-to-date information accessible over a secured network can prove to be of great help to medical professionals, the ECRI Institute indicates that it also presents the possibility of significant patient harm if these electronic medical records somehow contain inaccurate, incomplete or outdated information.

In light of this possibility and the difficulty in tracking down such errors, the ECRI Institute advises hospitals to introduce stringent measures to ensure the integrity of their health IT systems.

3. Mix-up of IV lines

While the ECRI Institute has focused on infusion pump errors in past reports, this year’s report focuses on the danger posed by the multiple tubes that a single hospital patient might be outfitted with for various treatment purposes.

Here, they caution that if this tangle of tubing is not properly labeled and/or separated, hospital staff could inadvertently administer the wrong drug via IV infusion, or administer it at the incorrect rate or in the wrong dosage, three possibilities that could have grave consequences for the patient.

We’ll continue to explore this topic in our next two posts …

Consider contacting an experienced legal professional if you or a loved one were victimized by the negligent practices or procedures of a hospital in which you placed your trust.

Source: Health Data Management, “ECRI’s Top 10 Technology Hazards for 2015,” Accessed Dec. 15, 2014

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