Girardi | Keese

With Improved Hospital Technology, Plenty Of New Risks, Part 2

Last week, we posted the beginning of the Emergency Care Research Institute's (ECRI) list of the 10 most dangerous technology-related hazards in American hospitals. This post presents the rest of those risks, picking up with the fourth concern.

4. Electronic records make it easier for all caregivers to say up to date on a single patient's condition and medical background - new information is accessible anywhere within the facility. However, patients should remember that it is still possible for hospital staff to enter the wrong information. In one case, a nurse confused a patient for another man with the same name, listing the wrong medical history. Patients who receive the wrong treatment or medication as a result of these mistakes probably have claims for medical malpractice.

5. Hospitals are also beginning to automate more and more routine aspects of treatment. Again, this is based on electronic records - the same problems can cause treatment mistakes here.

6. Patients have always been vulnerable to air embolisms when receiving IV medications. Although new devices try to filter out the air bubbles that cause embolisms, these devices are not always reliable - patients and family members need to remain vigilant.

7. When hospital employees use medical devices to treat children, they need to carefully consider whether the equipment has the correct settings. Many children suffer injuries when caregivers use adult-based technologies on a child - especially in emergency room facilities.

8. It will probably be many years before technology makes sterilization less important. As it is, more complex medical and surgical instruments are harder to clean and the ECRI estimates that 36 percent of hospitals do not do enough to sterilize them between procedures.

9. Surprisingly, ECRI also reports that medical caregivers are sometimes distracted by personal cell phones. With the proliferation of smart phones, the temptation to spend time and energy online can cause dangerous distractions. It only takes a moment of distraction for a caregiver to make a massive mistake.

10. Finally, oxygen tubes can have big benefits for surgery patients. But ECRI reports that leaks can allow the concentrated oxygen to ignite dangerous fires. These fires are relatively rare but around 600 occur every year during surgery.

Overall, technological benefits in healthcare are very important - but patients need to know about some of the potential hazards that may exist during treatment. Anyone who suffers injuries or medical setbacks as the result of medical negligence should contact an experienced California personal injury attorney.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, "Top ten hospital hazards," Nov. 5, 2012

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