The ECRI Institute is a non-profit company that studies new techniques to enhance patient care. It has recently published an annual list that includes the top 10 Health
Technology Hazards for 2019.
The goal of coming up with this list is to assist healthcare providers in identifying potential sources of hazard or concerns with technology that could potentially cause harm to patients so that they can take action to minimize the risk of undesirable events happening.
In creating the list, ECRI Institute had engineers, clinicians, scientists and patient safety analysts investigate safety incidents, assess hospital procedures, review related literature and talk to healthcare experts and medical device manufacturers to determine the primary risks to healthcare devices and systems that call for prompt attention.
The factors considered to create the top 10 list consists of the following:
- probability of the hazards to result in serious injury or death
- the frequency of incidents
- the number of people that will be potentially impacted
- impact on the healthcare company
- the actions that can be considered to minimize the effect on patient care
The number one hazard for 2019 is the remote access of healthcare systems by hackers. This rating was based on the amount of cyberattacks on healthcare institutions, the high probability for harm, and the quantity of people that might be affected.
There is substantial possibility for hackers to exploit the remote access functionality of medical equipment and systems. A cyberattack can make medical equipment and systems non-functional or could worsen their efficiency, which can have a big negative effect on patient care and can put patients’ lives in danger. Cyberattacks can also cause the stealing of health data, which could likewise have an adverse impact on patients.
ECRI remarks that although cyberattacks could have an adverse effect on healthcare providers, bringing about reputation damage and considerable fines, cybersecurity is likewise a crucial patient safety concern.
Hackers could very easily exploit unmaintained and poor remote access systems and take control of medical equipment and healthcare systems. They could move inside the network and access medical and nonmedical resources, connected devices and systems. They could steal patient information, install malware, hijack computing resources and install ransomware rendering systems inoperable. But these attacks are avoidable. All remote access points must be identified, protected and monitored. Good cybersecurity practices must be adhered to including the use of strong passwords, maintaining and patching systems and having system access logs.
The following lists the Top Ten Health Technology Hazards for 2019:
- Hackers could exploit remote system access disturbing healthcare operations
- “Clean” mattresses could drip body fluids on patients
- Retained sponges remain as a surgical problem in spite of manual counts
- Incorrectly set ventilator alarms can cause patients to suffer hypoxic brain injury or death
- Improper handling of flexible endoscopes after disinfection could cause patient infections
- Mistaking dose rate for flow rate could lead to error in infusion pump medication
- Poor customization of physiologic monitor alarm controls may cause missed alarms
- Injury problem from overhead patient lift systems
- Cleaning fluid leaking into electrical components could damage equipment and cause fires
- Wrong battery charging systems and practices could affect device function