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Top healthcare tech hazards plaguing patient safety: Part I

For the fourth consecutive year, the independent organization known as ECRI has published a list of the top ten most dangerous systems and devices currently plaguing healthcare. It is hoped that the information contained within this list will inspire both manufacturers and healthcare facilities to reevaluate their approaches in regards to utilizing these devices and systems. Absent reform, patients may be unnecessarily harmed by this technology.

Using a potentially dangerous device or system does not generally constitute medical malpractice. However, failure to prevent medical harm when the risk is well documented may be grounds for negligence claims. Therefore, it is important for manufacturers, facilities and providers to embrace reform not only to shield patients from harm but also to shield themselves from liability.

At the top of this year’s list are hazards related to healthcare alarms. Anyone who has spent significant time in a hospital can attest to the fact that these facilities are noisy. Patients are often hooked up to so many machines featuring alarms that healthcare workers can begin to suffer from “alarm fatigue.” This phenomenon occurs when the noise pollution created by alarms becomes so pervasive that the alarms themselves no longer seem urgent. Healthcare providers can ultimately fail to react to alarms properly as a result of this fatigue.

In addition, many providers fail to hook patients up to necessary alarms, fail to enable important alarms and fail to set proper alarm priority levels. All of these oversights can place patients at risk of unnecessary and otherwise preventable harm.

Please check back as we will be continuing our discussion of the most pressing technology-related hazards plaguing patient safety today.

Source: Media Health Leaders, “ECRI Institute's Top 10 Healthcare Tech Hazards for 2015,” Cheryl Clark, Dec. 3, 2014

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