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The ECRI Institute released the list of top 10 health technology hazards for 2017.The goal of identifying these hazards is to provide healthcare facilities the necessary information so that they can implement adequate security and safety measures to deal with these expected threats.

As per the list, the top ten technology hazards include:

Infusion Errors: While it’s true that most large-volume infusion pumps have built-in safety mechanisms, a risk of potential errors may still remain. The ECRI Institute investigates such incidents that involve the infusion pump or incidents related to administration set up failures, incorrect infusion programming, etc. It is important to take this threat seriously as infusion errors could result in the uncontrolled delivery of medication to the patient. Uncontrolled delivery could in turn lead to dangerous harm, possibly death. Thus, it is important to ensure there is no physical damage to any of the pump components and that the device is functioning properly.

Contaminated Medical Instruments: Using contaminated medical instruments can often result in deadly infections. We have all heard about outbreaks due to the use of contaminated duodenoscopes but this is just one example. Medical instruments such as endoscopes, cannulated drills, arthroscopic shavers etc. are used frequently and if contaminated, can result in harmful consequences. Healthcare facilities must follow specific cleaning protocols to ensure this does not happen.

Missed Ventilator Alarms: The purpose of ventilator alarms is to prevent patient harm. However, if these alarms are missed, they can result in deadly consequences. The primary reasons why ventilator alarms may be missed include alarm fatigue where the hospital staff is too tired, distracted or desensitized to the alarm itself or notification failure where the alarm fails to work. Since managing ventilator alarm systems and data can be fairly challenging, it is important for healthcare facilities to identify and implement methods and strategies to address this issue.

Drug-Induced Respiratory Depression: Patients on opioids such as morphine, hydromorphone or fentanyl are at risk for drug-induced respiratory depression. While healthcare staff engages in spot checks every few hours for patients on opioids and narcotics, these checks may be inadequate when compared to the risk associated with these drugs. Healthcare facilities may have to implement measures that can ensure continuous monitoring of such patients because drug-induced respiratory depression can lead to anoxic brain injury or death.

Heater-Cooler Systems: A potential source of nontuberculosis myobacteria (NTM) infections in heart surgery is heater-cooler systems. These systems are used in cardiothoracic surgeries and are intended to warm or cool the patient by extracorporeal exchange of heat with the patient’s blood. The water is circulated through a closed circuit. If these devices become contaminated, they could result in NTM infections that could be life-threatening.

Inadequate Software Management: There are several types of medical software used in healthcare facilities. Managing and maintaining these software can be quite challenging but if this is not done properly, it could result in slow responses to safety alerts, cybersecurity vulnerabilities and compromized patient safety. It is evident that any mismanagement of healthcare facility software updates and alerts can have a negative impact on patient care and both patient and staff safety. It is therefore imperative that computerized management systems (CMMS) are up and running and on track in terms of updates.

Exposure in Hybrid ORs: Hybrid ORs are operating suites that have built-in-xray imaging systems and while these suites are fairly advanced and well-equipped, they can also result in unnecessary radiation exposure to clinicians. It is important for hybrid OR staff to receive adequate radiation protection training in order to minimize their exposure to radiation.

Overall, these health hazards are all manageable through the implementation of adequate safety and security systems. However, since there are risks associated with each potential hazard, these issues should not be taken lightly and healthcare facilities should ensure that they have systems in place that could minimize the risk for both patients and clinicians.

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