The Emergency Response Centre International (ERCI) institute publishes an annual list of the top technology health hazards that they believe warrant the greatest attention by hospitals for the coming year. These potential safety issues involve the use of both medical devices and complex online information systems.1 By informing hospitals of these potential safety issues the ERCI aims to help healthcare facilities identify possible sources of danger and take steps to minimize the likelihood such events will occur.
Hazards Warranting the Greater Attention in 2019
- Hackers infiltrating networked devices. Cybersecuirty attacks by hackers exploit access to electronic systems and disrupt healthcare operations. When remote access systems are infiltrated for illegitimate purposes hackers can install malware systems, steal data, or make data unusable.2Safeguarding networks occurs through establishing protection and monitoring systems, as well as practicing recommended cybersecurity practices such as implementing strong password policies.1
- Mattress contamination.Healthcare facilities should regularly inspect mattresses and covers for signs of contamination or damage. If blood or other bodily fluids remain on mattresses, subsequent patients could be exposed to infectious materials.1
- Surgical sponges accidentally left inside the patient during surgery. Surgical sponges left inside the patient after the surgical site is closed can cause infection and other serious complications. Use of technologies to supplement manual counts could further reduce the risk of surgical sponges being retained during procedures.1
- Improperly set alarms on ventilators. Ventilator alarms should be tailored to the patient’s specific respiratory parameters.When alarms are set properly breathing circuit dysfunction resulting from leaks or disconnections can be quickly identified and remedied. If alarms not set appropriately inadequate ventilation may go undetected, which could result in a hypoxic brain injury or death.1
- Mishandling flexible endoscopes after disinfection.Failure to follow the protocol for disinfecting endoscopes can lead to patient infection. Endoscopes that are not completely dried following disinfection allow opportunity for microbes to colonize. Handling the instrument with unclean gloves or the endoscope coming into contact with any unclean surface may also lead to contamination and patient infection.1,3
- Confusing dose rate with flow rate.Wrong-field programming errors such as entering an intended flow rate into an infusion pump’s dose rate can lead to patient harm. When the rate programmed into a pump is incorrect, the patient may receive too much or too little medication solution. Appropriate double-checks should be implemented to verify correct pump programming.1,4
- Improper customization of physiologic monitor alarm settings.Customized physiologic alarm settings are designed to activate alarms signifying important status changes in the patient that warrant attention. If alarms are not customized according to the particular needs and condition of the patient a medical situation can occur without an accompanying alarm and result in serious injury or death.1
- Injury risk from overhead patient lift systems. Patient lift systems were designed to be used as a safety technology for lifting and transferring patients, but still pose their own safety challenges.5While in use a patient is suspended in a sling where an overhead track is mounted to the ceiling or wall. Substantial injury or damage can occur if the lift components fall from above or fail during use as a result of improper installation, use, or maintenance.1
- Cleaning fluid seeping into electrical components.Medical devices and electrical equipment used in the hospital must be disinfected to prevent cross-contamination between patients. However, improper cleaning practices may result in unintended electrical currents. Hospital employees should avoid spraying fluids directly onto equipment, squeeze out excess liquid before using wipes or sponges, and follow manufacturer instructions for cleaning equipment to prevent the risk for damaging devices.1
- Flawed battery charging systems and practices. Insufficiently charged batteries can affect the operation of a device. Equipment dysfunction can occur when a device’s battery status indicator is not accurate, the charger malfunctions, or the battery itself becomes defective. Hospital staff should ensure that battery-powered devices are properly charged and operating prior to use with patients.1
Now that you have been introduced to the Top 10 Technology Hazards List for 2019 you can be aware of the hazards hospital administrators should be directing their efforts towards. The recent increases in electronic health records and remote access systems have provided increased convenience for hospitals and their patients. However, as a result of this data breaches by hackers are becoming increasingly common and detrimental. For this reason network hacking is the #1 security threat to hospitals for 2019.
- 2019 Top 10 Health Technology Hazards Executive Brief.Plymouth, PA. 2018:1-17.
- Cyber Threats Top ERCRI Institute’s 2019 Health Technology Hazards. Erci.org. https://www.ecri.org/press/Pages/Health-Technology-Hazards-2019.aspx. Published October 1, 2018. Accessed October 20, 2018.
- Brooks M. Top 10 Tech Hazards for 2019. Medscape.com. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/902856?nlid=125375_4622&src=WNL_mdplsnews_181005_mscpedit_nurs&uac=303480BJ&spon=24&impID=1760488&faf=1#vp_2. Published October 2, 2018. Accessed October 20, 2018.
- Infusion Pumps: The Essentials. 1technation.com. https://1technation.com/infusion-pumps-essentials/. Published May 01, 2015. Accessed October 20, 2018.
- Patient Lifts. Fda.gov. https://www.fda.gov/medicaldevices/productsandmedicalprocedures/generalhospitaldevicesandsupplies/ucm308622.htm. Updated August 22, 2018. Accessed October 20, 2018.