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Top Health-related Safety Hazards for 2019

By January 25, 2019Commentary

The ECRI Institute performs analyses of the performance and cost-effectiveness of medical devices, equipment and other technology.  It releases an annual report identifying what it considers to be the primary dangers to be attentive to in the coming year.  The 2019 report has been released.   (ECRI Report)   ECRI creates the report from interviews with experts, reports it receives on safety issues and investigations.  In compiling the list the organization considers severity of the risk, its frequency, the difficulty in recognizing the risk, and its preventability.  Number one on the list was cyberattacks on remote access systems, with consequent installation of malware or stealing of information.  This is obviously not a health care specific risk, but the consequences of hacking can be much worse in health care institutions.  The biggest is probably around compromising equipment which is directly attached to patients or being used for direct patient care.  Second is unclean mattresses.  Now that is decidedly low tech, but apparently there are frequent failures to fully clean bedding or stretcher material which can result in bodily fluids being transmitted.   Third, we seem to continue to be unable to get all the surgical sponges out of a patient during surgery.  Manual count is the prevalent safety tactic but may be inadequate.  Fourth is the improper setting of ventilator alarms, leading to failure to detect lack of air delivery to patients.  Fifth is mishandling of flexible endoscopes.  Scope infections is a widespread issue and receiving lots of attention but still not solved.  Sixth is infusion pump errors which result in wrong medication doses.  Seven is a more general alarm setting issue.  Eight is overhead patient lifting systems, which are themselves designed to help create safer working conditions for staff, but if improperly installed or maintained can malfunction.  Nine is cleaning fluid seeping into electrical components, causing damage or fires.  And ten is flawed battery charging systems for devices and equipment with rechargeable batteries.

If you are a patient or potential patient, here is my big takeaway–stay out of the hospital and don’t get near any hooked up equipment.

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