Top 10 health IT hazards for 2013

Errors in electronic records can multiply the effects of problems.

Linking patient data to the wrong electronic health record is one of the top 10 health technology hazards for 2013, the ECRI Institute says in a new report.

EHRs can “multiply the effects of such errors” far more than when similar data mismatches occur in paper records, the report contends. “The result is that such errors can have far-reaching consequences, leading to a host of downstream effects that can be both difficult to identify and difficult to correct once they have been identified.”

Mismatched patient data in EHRs is fourth on the list, followed by interoperability failures between medical devices and health IT systems.

Devices used to gather and record patient data for transfer to an EHR needs to accurately note when switching to a new patient, the report says. Simple events can disrupt the process, such as a patient’s transfer from one hospital room to another, or a network outage.

Incidents of patient-data mismatches “may increase as hospitals in the United States fast-track efforts to implement EHRs,” the report says.

Interoperability issues, highlighted in hazard No. 5, include interfaces between medical devices, incompatible systems, and the ways that problems with one system can have a domino effect with other systems, according to the report.

The other eight health technology hazards identified by ECRI Institute are, in order:

  • Alarm hazards
  • Medication administration errors with infusion pumps
  • Unnecessary exposure and radiation burns from diagnostic radiology procedures.
  • Air embolism hazards
  • Inattention to the needs of pediatric patients when using technologies designed for adults
  • Inadequate reprocessing of endoscopic devices and surgical instruments
  • Caregivers being distracted by smartphones and other mobile devices
  • Surgical fires

“The inherent complexity of HIT-related medical technologies, their potential to introduce new failure modes, and the possibility that such failures will affect many patients before being noticed—combined with federal incentives to meet meaningful use requirements—leads us to encourage health-care facilities to pay particular attention to health IT when prioritizing their safety initiatives for 2013,” said James P. Keller Jr., the ECRI’s vice president for health technology evaluation and safety, in a statement.

The nonprofit ECRI Institute, based in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., researches patient care and safety issues.

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