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Top Tech Threats That Put Patients at Risk

When applied to medicine, technology can be a blessing - or a curse. Under the principle of "first, do no harm," potential curses should be recognized so that proper precautions can be taken against medical malpractice.

Toward that end, the ECRI Institute annually lists the most dangerous technology threats for patients. ECRI was formerly known as the Emergency Care Research Institute. It is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving health care delivery.

ECRI's list is intended to create public awareness of trends in the industry and allow institutions to develop policies and practices to reduce the number of errors and injuries that occur within medical facilities.

Topping the list of concerns facing patients in 2011 was radiation therapy dosage issues. These treatments can expose patients to a high amount of radiation, and any mistakes in the amount of dosage that a patient receives can have extremely harmful consequences. Even though this does not happen frequently, even one mistake can place patients in serious jeopardy.

Ineffective alarms are the second item on the ECRI list. Most of the machines connected to a patient will give off some warning when his or her condition changes. With so many warnings or alarms sounding, medical professionals may bypass or ignore the notifications that they receive.

Third on this year's list is the use of potentially contaminated or infected endoscopes. These instruments allow physicians to have a closer look at potential problems which may need surgery. Since endoscopes are used so frequently, they need to be properly cleaned and sterilized after each use. Failure to do so may place multiple patients at risk. Each model will have specific cleaning procedures that must be followed to ensure safe operation.

CT scans take up fourth place. CT scans subject patients to very high amounts of radiation. Many medical professionals order a CT scan when it is unnecessary. Additionally, this potential danger has been heavily publicized, and many patients may not be willing to undergo the scan. This could lead to serious medical issues going undetected.

Rounding out the top 5 on the tech threat list are data concerns related to electronic health records or other record keeping practices in place at hospitals. Many medical facilities are using new systems that they are unfamiliar with, leading to errors that may cause data to be lost or mistakenly entered.

In our next post, we will complete the list of the top ten tech threats facing patients, according to the ECRI list.

Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2010/12/08/the-top-ten-health-technology-threats-to-patient-safety/

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