ECRI List of Technology Hazards in Health Care

By November 7, 2017 Commentary

The ECRI Institute provides information to the health system about the safety and effectiveness of health technology and procedures.  Every year it provides a list of top technology hazards in health care and recently published the 2018 version.   (ECRI List)   The list is based on the severity of the harm that could be caused and the potential frequency.  Topping the list is ransomware and other cybersecurity threats, which may not only violate the privacy and security of patient data, but endanger their health.  Imagine hacking a wireless implantable defibrillator for example.  Next up is endoscope reprocessing, which has been under the microscope, so to speak, for the last couple of years.  Unclean scoping instruments of all types are obviously an easy path for germs into the body.  The third doesn’t seem to have much to do with technology, but is bed and stretcher covers remaining contaminated after cleaning.  Kind of like the yukiness of sleeping on hotel beds.  I mean, just think about it.  Next is all the problems associated with clinical alarm systems, especially in hospitals, such as alert fatigue, delayed alarms, failure to keep software updated, etc.  Number 5 is improper cleaning of devices and equipment, primarily with cleaning agents that may damage metal or non-metallic parts.

The bottom half of the list starts with electrosurgical pencils that are improperly holstered, leading to inadvertent burns or fires.  Number 7 is improper use of imaging machines that use radiation, which could lead to patients glowing in the dark.  At least they could see to find their way to the bathroom at nite.  Number 8 is improper use of bar-coded medication systems, which can lead to duplicate administration.  Flaws in networked health information systems is number 9, which includes failures to adequately communicate information among the proliferation of wireless monitoring devices.  And bringing up the bottom of the list is failure to use the most up-to-date enteral feeding tube connectors.  Surprisingly, some bigger problems aren’t on the list.  One would be over-reliance on the idea that “big” health data is going to improve care.  Another would be thinking that mobile apps, etc., etc. are going to solve the problems of cost, access and quality in health care.

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