Technology is important – in everyday life and medical care. Unfortunately, improper or negligent use of it can mean disaster for patients.
All medical devices, whether they are as routine as a bed or complex as robotic-assisted surgery tools, carry with them risks unless health care facilities and those who work in them take the steps necessary to minimize the dangers. In pursuit of that goal, ECRI Institute has issued its latest list of the top 10 tech hazards for 2018. They are:
- Cybersecurity: Hacker infiltration of computers has been widely reported in 2017. ECRI says deployment of things like ransomware is likely to continue. Patient data and networked medical devices could be compromised.
- Improper reprocessing of endoscopes: Doctors insert these optical tools into patient’s bodies to get an interior view of organ tissue. If not properly cleaned, dried and stored, they can spread infection.
- Contaminated bedding: Sheets and mattress covers get washed. Mattresses don’t. Body fluid leaks from previous patients could pose risks to others.
- Badly configured alarm systems: Devices intended to inform providers about emergencies aren’t much good if they aren’t programmed properly to begin with.
- Insufficient equipment cleaning: Medical equipment is unique. The methods to clean it are often tool-specific. Use the wrong tool and the equipment can become a hazard.
- Out-of-place active-electrode pencils: These surgical tools come with special holsters and they need to be used. If they aren’t, and a tip comes in contact with something or someone it shouldn’t, fire and injury are possible.
- Inadequate application of digital imaging tools: Diagnostic imaging technology has made great strides, but exposure to too much of the ionizing radiation can cause burns or increase cancer risk.
- Correct use of medication bar-code systems: When properly deployed and maintained, these scanners can prevent medication errors. The problem, according to ECRI, is that if there’s a lack of training or the equipment doesn’t function right, care workers won’t bother to use it.
- Medical device networking mistakes: Errors in this regard can mean the wrong or delayed care for patients.
- Improper enteral feeding tube connections: If the tube is supposed to deliver food to the stomach, it must not go somewhere else. New connectors on the market ensure that bad connections don’t happen.
This may seem like a great deal of detail, but when life is at stake, it can’t be optional.