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Top 10 Tech-Related Health Hazards for 2018

Steven E. North and Laurence M. Deutsch

No one can refute the incredible strides made in medicine thanks to new technology. But such advances bring with them new risks that can result in patient harm and, potentially, result in medical malpractice suits.

North & Deutsch has achieved success in multiple malpractice suits resulting from tech-related issues. In one instance the wrong medication was administered to a patient who died as a result. In another suit that drew a large settlement, 30 people got hepatitis C because colonoscopy instruments were not properly cleaned. One unsuspecting patient’s head caught fire from a cauterizing instrument gone wrong.

Each year, the ECRI Institute, a nonprofit research organization, identifies what it believes will be the greatest technology-related health hazards in the coming year. The number one spot, hardly an honor, goes to ransomware and other types of malware attacks. If your own computer has ever been attacked by these vicious intruders, you already know the havoc they can wreak. Should they get into a hospital’s network, the potential for critical, even life-threatening errors is massive. To round out the top ten tech hazards in medicine, after malware:

  1. Endoscope Reprocessing Failures. Deadly infections can be spread by failure of healthcare facilities to effectively clean and reprocess endoscope tools. This risk should be minimized by magnification-aided visual inspections, biomedical testing, and measures to dry endoscope channels after reprocessing.

    Patients: You are free to and should inquire about a facility’s or physicians instrument-cleaning procedures.

  2. Hospital Mattresses. Lingering contaminants on or absorbed by mattresses and bed covers put patients at risk.

    Patients: While you may not even see your mattress, you can validate that the blanket was changed as well as the sheets and whether a new “separation” curtain is hung with patient changes because germs are likely to reside there as well.

While we advise that patients have a right to ask questions, there are some hazards that, unfortunately, are out of your control. This is the rest of ECI’s list of equipment related health hazards:

  1. Missed alarms
  2. Improper cleaning of medical devices (beyond just endoscopy tools)
  3. Upholstered electrosurgical unit active-electrode pencils which can lead to burns
  4. Inadequate use of digital imaging tools, which may lead to unnecessary radiation exposure
  5. Workarounds to bar-coded medication administration systems which can negate their safety advantages
  6. Flaws in medical device networking
  7. Slow adoption of safer enteral feeding connectors

Some injuries due to “hospital equipment” may be quite serious, even life-threatening. If you believe this happened to you or a loved one, you may want to explore the issue with us. We have been able to help many clients determine if an injury should have been prevented, and if that was the case, to obtain proper redress in the legal system.

Source: Medscape.com, “Top 10 Tech Health Hazards for 2018 Released,” Megan Brooks, 11/07/17