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Top 10 Health Technology Hazards

Posted on November 23, 2018 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Over the years, it’s always been interesting to take a look at the Top 10 Health Technology Hazards reports that the ECRI Institute puts out each year. Healthcare IT always seems to show up on the list which is interesting since I hear very few healthcare IT salespeople talk about the risks of their systems vs the benefits.

I’m not exactly sure when ECRI puts out these annual reports, but the 2019 report is already out. However, before we look at the Top 10 Health Hazards for 2019, I like to look back at what was on their list from 2018:
1. Ransomware and Other Cybersecurity Threats to Healthcare Delivery Can Endanger Patients

2. Endoscope Reprocessing Failures Continue to Expose Patients to Infection Risk

3. Mattresses and Covers May Be Infected by Body Fluids and Microbiological Contaminants

4. Missed Alarms May Result from Inappropriately Configured Secondary Notification Devices and Systems

5. Improper Cleaning May Cause Device Malfunctions, Equipment Failures, and Potential for Patient Injury

6. Unholstered Electrosurgical Active Electrodes Can Lead to Patient Burns

7. Inadequate Use of Digital Imaging Tools May Lead to Unnecessary Radiation Exposure

8. Workarounds Can Negate the Safety Advantages of Bar-Coded Medication Administration Systems

9. Flaws in Medical Device Networking Can Lead to Delayed or Inappropriate Care

10. Slow Adoption of Safer Enteral Feeding Connectors Leaves Patients at Risk

And now a look at the list of healthcare technology hazards for 2019:
1. Hackers Can Exploit Remote Access to Systems, Disrupting Healthcare Operations

2. “Clean” Mattresses Can Ooze Body Fluids onto Patients

3. Retained Sponges Persist as a Surgical Complication Despite Manual Counts

4. Improperly Set Ventilator Alarms Put Patients at Risk for Hypoxic Brain Injury or Death

5. Mishandling Flexible Endoscopes after Disinfection Can Lead to Patient Infections

6. Confusing Dose Rate with Flow Rate Can Lead to Infusion Pump Medication Errors

7. Improper Customization of Physiologic Monitor Alarm Settings May Result in Missed Alarms

8. Injury Risk from Overhead Patient Lift Systems

9. Cleaning Fluid Seeping into Electrical Components Can Lead to Equipment Damage and Fires

10. Flawed Battery Charging Systems and Practices Can Affect Device Operation

In a bit of a surprising result to me, the only thing on the list that qualifies as healthcare IT to me is the first one focused on hackers accessing health IT systems and disrupting the healthcare operations. It’s no surprise that hackers are on the list, but I’d have thought more health IT components would be on there. Even something like inappropriate alerts or incorrect information in the EHR or even health IT system downtime.

I’m not sure if we should applaud healthcare IT for not really making the list or whether it’s more of an indication of the other things being more hazardous. What is an important takeaway from these lists is that healthcare organizations have a lot of different hazards to deal with in their environment. Poorly implemented health IT is only one of them.

Health IT Stands Out In Health Technology Hazards List

Posted on November 30, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or

The ECRI Institute has just released its annual list of top 10 health technology hazards, and this year, two of the hazards are health IT related. This probably isn’t a surprise to anyone who reads this blog, but it’s still worth noting, as it’s easy to get embroiled in abstract IT discussions and forget concrete patient risks, wouldn’t you agree?

For context, here’s ECRI’s list for 2013 in its entirety:

1.  Alarm hazards
2.  Medication administration errors using infusion pumps
3.  Unnecessary radiation exposures and radiation burns
during diagnostic radiology procedures
4.  Patient/data mismatches in EHRs and other health IT
(HIT) systems
5.  Interoperability failures with medical devices and health
IT systems
6.  Air embolism hazards
7.  Inattention to the needs of pediatric patients when using “adult”
8.  Inadequate reprocessing of endoscopic devices and surgical
9.  Caregiver distractions from smartphones and
other mobile devices
10. Surgical fires

As you can see, two of the top five are EMR-related, and perhaps more importantly, are risks that don’t get discussed that often in health IT watering holes such as this publication.  But it’s hard to argue that patient/data mismatches could pose severe risks up to including death, as could interoperability problems between medical devices and healtlh IT systems.

While ECRI doesn’t, I’d also count number nine, mobile device distractions, as I’m betting much of the distraction clinicians face comes from clinical communication, not idle chatter.  And while I don’t know how ECRI ranks its choices, I’d bet it actually belongs higher on the list.

I’m not going to sound like much of a prophet when I predict that health IT  problems will take over more slots on the list over time.  For example, when infusion pumps are linked with EMRs, interchange of data will almost certainly become a life or death issue.

In the mean time, dealing with mobile device distraction may be the lowest hanging fruit of the bunch. I don’t know how to do it, but if a vendor comes up with a solution that elegantly streamlines doctor communication on mobile devices, it’s likely to be a big hit.