Patient Harm from Medical Device Hazards

An organization focused on preventing patient harm from preventable medical errors recently released a list that spotlights the dangers from defective medical devices.

ECRI is a nonprofit organization that evaluates the safety of medical devices as part of its mission to make healthcare safer. In January it released its “Top 10 Healthcare Technology Hazards” for 2023.

ECRI compiled the list through a comprehensive process of testing medical devices, reviewing reports highlighting problems, observing hospital practices, and speaking with healthcare providers.  The final list is based on several factors, including:

  • Severity of patient harm
  • Frequency of patient harm
  • Breadth of patient harm
  • Preventability of the danger

ECRI states that all the listed technology hazards can be prevented or minimized by “careful management of technologies.”

Unclean Catheters

Single-use medical devices that are defective are on the list.  ECRI cites cracked medical tubing and unsterile needles and catheters as examples. Potential patient harm from their use can include hospital-acquired infections or delayed or incorrect medical treatment.

ECRI calls on manufacturers to improve the quality of single-use medical devices and healthcare providers to report issues with them.

Hospitals may use automated dispensing cabinets to prevent errors involving powerful medications.  Healthcare providers must enter their credentials to open the cabinets and then verify their use by a pharmacist before accessing and administering certain drugs.

Serious Errors with Powerful Medications

These procedures can be overridden – foregoing the pharmacist review – to make access quicker.  ECRI includes these automated dispensing cabinet overrides on the 2023 list of technology hazards because some healthcare providers perform these overrides routinely rather than as needed.

The organization says these unnecessary actions have led to fatal medication errors, citing overdoses or administering the wrong medication to patients.

ECRI put improper cleaning of ventilators on the list of technology hazards, as unclean ventilators can pose grave dangers to patients. The organization calls on manufacturers to improve their instructions for disinfecting ventilators to make them less confusing.

Unclear or incomplete instructions may mean those responsible don’t effectively clean ventilators, causing dangerous infectious diseases that spread among patients.

Providers Not Reporting Defective Medical Devices

ECRI cites a lack of reporting of defective medical devices by healthcare providers as the final item on its “Top 10 Healthcare Technology Hazards” for 2023. Repeated use of defective medical devices can lead to serious patient harm, which is why known defects should be reported promptly and routinely, and the devices in question not be used.

ECRI says medical facilities must encourage the reporting of defective medical devices.  They should make the reporting process easier and better educate providers on how to spot defective medical device issues.

Medical errors caused by defective medical devices and incorrect usage of medical equipment can be catastrophic for patients and their families. Manufacturers of defective medical devices and medical providers who use them improperly can be held accountable for any resulting patient harm.

If you believe you or a loved one was a victim of a catastrophic medical error, speak with a personal injury lawyer experienced in conducting medical malpractice investigations.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham. Posted in Blog February 14, 2023.


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