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ECRI Institute Announces Top 10 Health Technology Hazards for 2015

PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. — What could possibly go wrong in hospitals? Many things, according to ECRI Institute, an independent nonprofit that researches the best approaches to improving patient care. Hazards caused by medical technology are a prime example—because hazards can lead to accidents and patient harm. Dec_MCD_eNews_ECRITo help hospitals reduce technology-related risks, ECRI Institute publishes an annual list of Top 10 Health Technology Hazards. The list highlights 10 safety topics that ECRI Institute deems crucial for hospitals to address in the coming year.

“Technology safety can often be overlooked,” says James P. Keller, Jr., vice president, health technology evaluation and safety, ECRI Institute. “Based on our experience, there are serious safety problems that need to be addressed. ECRI Institute recommends that hospitals use our list as a guide to help prioritize their technology-related safety initiatives.”

The 2015 Top 10 Health Technology Hazards report, available for download as a free public service, details a variety of technology hazards that put patients at risk. Each hazard includes an overview of the issue and recommended action steps to aid healthcare facilities in their efforts to maintain a safe environment for patients and healthcare workers. Topics on the list include:

  1. Alarm hazards: Inadequate alarm configuration policies and practices.
  2. Data integrity: Incorrect or missing data in electronic health records and other health IT systems.
  3. Mix-up of IV lines leading to misadministration of drugs and solutions.
  4. Inadequate reprocessing of endoscopes and surgical instruments.
  5. Ventilator disconnections not caught because of mis-set or missed alarms.
  6. Patient-handling device use errors and device failures.
  7. “Dose creep:” Unnoticed variations in diagnostic radiation exposures.
  8. Robotic surgery: Complications due to insufficient training.
  9. Cybersecurity: Insufficient protections for medical devices and systems.
  10. Overwhelmed recall and safety alert management programs.

For the fourth year in a row, clinical alarm hazards, a Joint Commission National Patient Safety Goal, remains number one on ECRI’s list. This year, the report draws particular attention to alarm configuration practices. ECRI Institute is aware of several deaths and other cases of severe patient harm that may have been prevented with more effective alarm policies and practices.

Recall management, which appears on the list for the first time, points to overwhelmed recall and safety-alert programs as a potential for serious consequences for healthcare facilities and patients. ECRI experts are concerned that existing hospital recall tracking programs are not keeping pace with the growing number of medical device recalls issued each year. FDA reports the annual number of medical device recalls nearly doubled between 2003 and 2012, from 604 recalls to 1,190 annually.

For each topic, ECRI Institute describes the hazard, presents recommendations for minimizing the risks and lists helpful resources readers can access to learn more about the topic. Materials available to members of ECRI Institute’s Health Devices, Health Devices Gold and SELECTplus programs are listed under the “Member Resources” heading. Materials more broadly available or that require subscriptions to other services are listed as “Additional Resources.”

To develop the annual list, ECRI Institute’s multidisciplinary staff of engineers, scientists, nurses, physicians and patient safety analysts draw on the resources of the institute’s 45-year history, as well as expertise and insight gained through testing and analyzing healthcare technologies. This includes examining health technology-related problem reports from hospitals and health systems worldwide, and reports received through ECRI Institute Patient Safety Organization.

For questions about ECRI Institute’s annual list of technology hazards, or for information about ECRI Institute’s Health Devices or Alerts Tracker membership programs, accident investigation services or adverse event reporting, contact ECRI Institute at 610-825-6000, ext. 5891 or by email at clientservices@ecri.org.

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Posted December 10, 2014

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