Infusion Pumps, Reusable Medical Devices Top List Of Health Tech Hazards

Patients face safety risks from health technologies designed to improve care.

A new report lends credence to the old adage that if you don’t want to get sick, stay out of the hospital. For employers, the report is a clear warning that they’ll pay the price in higher health care expenses and lost worker productivity if they don’t steer employees to the safest hospitals and doctors.
The ECRI Institute, the independent healthcare product testing and review organization based in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, this week released its annual ranking of the top 10 health technology hazards facing patients when they seek medical care from hospitals and doctors.
Topping this year’s list are large-volume infusion pumps that control and deliver fluids and medications intravenously to patients. According to the ECRI report, problems with the infusion pumps that can lead to life-threatening medication errors include mechanical failures, incorrect infusion settings, incorrect infusion programming and disconnected or deactivated safety mechanisms.
“Such errors—particularly those that result in the uncontrolled flow of medication to the patient, known as ‘IV free flow’—can lead to patient harm or even death,” the report said.
Second on ECRI’s list of health tech hazards are reusable medical devices and instruments that, when not properly or adequately cleaned and sterilized, can harbor bacteria that can cause “disabling or deadly patient infections.” Such devices and instruments include endoscopes, cannulated drills and arthroscopic shavers.
“Healthcare facilities should verify that comprehensive reprocessing instructions are available to staff and that all steps are consistently followed, including pre-cleaning of the device at the point of use,” ECRI recommended.
Rounding out the top 10 health technology safety hazards facing patients are:
·       Missed or ignored ventilator alarms
·       Undetected opioid-induced respiratory depression
·       Contaminated heater-cooler devices used during heart surgery
·       Inadequate medical device software management
·       Excess radiation in hybrid operating rooms
·       Improper set up and use of automated medication dispensing cabinets
·       Misuse and malfunctions of surgical staplers
·       Medical device failures caused by incompatible cleaning and maintenance practices
“All the items on our list represent problems that can be avoided or risks that can be minimized through the careful management of technologies,” ECRI said.