Alarm Hazards Remain Top Safety Concern in Hospitals

Medical technology hazards remain a top safety issue for hospitals and can come in many forms. However, for the fourth year in a row, alarm hazards topped the annual Top 10 Health Technology Hazards list from the ECRI Institute.

Medical technology hazards remain a top safety issue for hospitals and can come in many forms. However, for the fourth year in a row, alarm hazards topped the annual Top 10 Health Technology Hazards list from the ECRI Institute.

The purpose of the list is to identify potential sources of danger that warrant the most attention for the coming year because they can lead to accidents and patient harm. Although the issue of clinical alarm hazards is once again the number one safety concern, ECRI narrowed its focus specifically to alarm configuration practices instead of the broad range of issues it had addressed in the past.

“Technology safety can often be overlooked,” James P. Keller, Jr, vice president of health technology evaluation and safety at the ECRI Institute, said in a statement. “Based on our experience, there are serious safety problems that need to be addressed.”

When assessing topics for inclusion on the list of technology-related safety issues, ECRI considered a number of factors, including the likelihood the hazard could cause serious injury or death, how frequently the hazard could occur, and the preventability of the hazard.

Although the hazards that made the list don’t have to meet all of the criteria, they do have to be, to some degree, preventable.

The 2015 list of hazards is as follows:

  1. Alarm hazards: Inadequate alarm configuration policies and practices
  2. Data integrity: Incorrect or missing data in electronic health records and other health information systems
  3. Mix-up of IV lines leading to misadministration of drugs and solutions
  4. Inadequate reprocessing of endoscopes and surgical instruments
  5. Ventilator disconnections not caught because of mis-set or missed alarms
  6. Patient-handling device use errors and device failures
  7. “Dose creep”: Unnoticed variations in diagnostic radiation exposures
  8. Robotic surgery: Complications due to insufficient training
  9. Cybersecurity: Insufficient protections for medical devices and systems
  10. Overwhelmed recall and safety alert management programsa