The ECRI Institute, a non-profit firm that researches new methods to improve patient care, has recently released an annual listing of the top 10 Health
Technology Hazards for 2019.
The objective of creating this list is to help healthcare companies in discovering possible sources of danger or issues with technology that can possibly cause problems to patients so they could do something to lessen the risk of undesirable incidents taking place.
In producing the list, ECRI Institute worked with clinicians, engineers, scientists and patient safety experts who investigated security breaches, evaluated hospital operations, reviewed literature and talked to healthcare specialists and healthcare device manufacturers to find out the major problems in healthcare devices and systems that require immediate attention.
The factors taken into consideration in creating the top 10 list include the following:
- possibility of the hazards resulting in severe injury or death
- the number of individuals that is going to be impacted
- the rate of recurrence of incidents
- effect on the healthcare firm
- the actions that may be taken into account to lessen the impact on patient care
These are the Top 10 Health Technology Hazards for 2019:
- Exploitation of remote system access by hackers causing disruption in healthcare operations
- “Clean” mattresses could spill body fluids on patients
- Retained sponges continue to be as a surgical concern despite manual counts
- Improperly set ventilator alarms can lead to hypoxic brain injury or death of patients
- Poor handling of disinfected flexible endoscopes may cause infections in patients
- Wrong dose rate for flow rate can result in problem in infusion pump medication
- Wrong setting of physiologic monitor alarm controls could bring about missed alerts
- Injury concern from overhead patient lift systems
- Leaking of cleaning fluid into electrical parts could affect equipment and trigger fires
- Improper battery charging systems and procedures could cause device malfunction
The top hazard for 2019 is the remote access into healthcare systems by cyber criminals. This ranking was influenced by the number of cyberattacks on healthcare organizations, the high possibility for injury, and the number of individuals that could be impacted.
There is considerable chances that hackers could exploit medical equipment and systems with remote access functionality. A cyberattack could cause the medical equipment and systems to malfunction or perform poorly, which negatively affects patient care and could endanger the lives of patients. Cyberattacks could also lead to the theft of health records, which also adversely impacts patients.
ECRI responds that even though cyberattacks have a negative effect on healthcare companies, causing reputation damage and sizeable penalties, cybersecurity is similarly a critical patient safety issue.
Unmaintained and ineffective remote access systems are prone to exploitation by hackers. By taking control of medical equipment and healthcare systems, hackers could easily move internally and access medical and nonmedical information, linked devices and networks, steal patient data, hijack computing resources and install ransomware that freezes systems operations. However, these attacks could be avoided by identifying all remote access points, protecting and monitoring them. Good cybersecurity practices ought to be followed such as using strong passwords, updating and patching systems and monitoring system access logs.