How nurses can avoid the top health technology hazards

The top health technology hazards are in the hands of nurses, according to a new report from the ECRI Institute.

The top health technology hazards are in the hands of nurses, according to a new report from the ECRI Institute.

Out of the 10 top hazards identified in the report, nurses work directly with the top 5.

The top hazard involves medical alarms and working to prevent alarm fatigue to avoid missing any vital notifications. Policies that prevent caregivers from receiving alarm notification in a timely manner of expose them to an excessive amount of alarms can be dangerous, and are the focus of a new effort by the Joint Commission to emphasize the importance of effective alarm reconfiguration. ECRI recommends investigation facility policies on alarms, and setting and monitoring alarms with appropriate patient-specific parameters.

The second hazard on the list is also key to nursing—data integrity within electronic health record (EHR) systems. Medical decisions are based on the content of EHR systems and they can be a beneficial tool, yet data housed within EHRs can be compromised all too easily. Common errors include the appearance of one patient’s information in another’s EHR record, missing information, clock synchronization errors, default values populated into EHR fields, and outdated information. New EHR systems should be created with workflow in mind and designed to pre-empt common errors, ECRI reports. Users should also receive intense training on any new systems, according to the report.

The third hazard on the list also focuses on nursing work, specifically in managing the tangle of tubing one must manage when administering multiple IV infusions. Previous lists have focused on errors involving infusion pumps, but ECRI’s new report turns the attention to the risk of line confusion. Tangled lines can be connected to the wrong locations or wrong medications, and the problem is only compounded when multiple treatments must be administered. Nurses should take care to physically trace each IV line to its source, and label each line with the name of the treatment being infused, and only use compatible lines and connections, ECRI notes.

After the top three items on the list, hazards related to nursing spread out among the rest of the top 10. Another nursing hazard listed is ventilator disconnections related to missed alarms. Clinicians and respiratory therapists should be involved in finding the best settings for the patient, and the nurse must be constantly aware of all circuit connections, particularly after a patient has been moved.

ECRI also identifies patient handling devices as a big hazard, including devices that aid with lifting and patient transfer. The report notes an Occupational Safety and Health Administration report that found that 25% of all Worker’s Compensation claims for healthcare workers in 2011 involved injuries related to patient handling. ECRI recommends that healthcare facilities train staff to recognize their limitations when it comes to patient-lifting, and to help facilitate proper techniques and provide adequate equipment for safe handling. Finally, assistive devices must be properly maintained and inspected, ECRI notes.

Other health technology hazards identified by the report include inadequate reprocessing of endoscopes and surgical instruments, unnoticed variations in diagnostic radiation exposures, complications due to insufficient training in robotic surgery, cybersecurity issues, and overwhelmed recall and safety-alert management programs.

From Healthcare Treaveler

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