5 Health IT Safety Issues Hospital Executives Should Monitor

As health IT proliferates in hospitals, so do potential patient safety issues. The ECRI Institute and the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation have compiled a list of five health IT issues that should have the attention of hospital executives to avoid preventable patient harm.

1. Alarm fatigue/ safety. In April 2013, The Joint Commission issued a Sentinel Event Alert for "alarm fatigue" among hospital staff — an overabundance of information transmitted by medical devices that can compromise patient safety. Hospital executives should establish a multidisciplinary team to address alarm fatigue and safety and ensure their hospitals' technology has appropriate safeguards or solutions in place to help address alarm safety concerns.

2. Luer connectors. Luer connectors are used throughout hospitals and health systems because of their universal nature — one connector can have many different uses on various medical devices. However, this can lead to misconnections, such as a feeding tube being inserted into an I.V. line, leading to negative patient outcomes. By the end of 2014, new connectors with new standards to prevent this type of misconnection are expected to be on the market. Hospital executives should be preparing their organization to switch to the new types of connectors that conform to the new standards.

3. Cybersecurity. Even correctly configured, hospital networks and connected medical devices are vulnerable to hackers. Hospital executives should ensure their organizations are following established best practices for cybersecurity, vetting vendors and running internal security testing before new networks and devices go live. It's up to executives to make this type of security a priority, according to the report.

4. Batteries. Medical devices and other technologies that run on batteries can be compromised by poor-quality batteries, confusing battery-related error messages and bad internal connections. Hospital executives should make sure supply chain leaders are not pressured to purchase the cheapest batteries, but invest in quality ones that will last longer and help keep patients safer.

5. Recalls. The number of Food and Drug Administration recalls of medical devices doubled between 2003 and 2012. Hospital executives should ensure their organization considers vendors' and products' recall histories before purchasing and that their organization has a process for handling recall announcements and monitoring potential safety issues.

More Articles on Health IT Safety:

Rapid Adoption of Surgical Innovation Risky for Patients, Study Finds
4 Recently Launched mHealth Apps
FDA Issues Guidance on Nanotechnology

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