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Medical Technology and Devices That Can Harm Patients

A medical safety organization has issued a warning as to the top medical care technology dangers to watch out for this year.

While technological advancements in the field of medicine have been on balance a valuable asset, there have been drawbacks when relying too heavily on them.  Defective medical devices – those improperly manufactured yet sent out to market – can cause serious harm to patients.

For example, a type of cardiac defibrillator recently was recalled after a component was found at risk of breaking, which could lead to the death of the patient in which it was implanted.

Electronic Health Records Miss Medical Errors

Another example of medical technology that can harm patients is electronic health records.  While designed to improve patient care, last year a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (“National Trends in the Safety Performance of Electronic Health Record Systems From 2009 to 2018”) found the EHRs missed one third of all serious medical errors over a 10-year period that were put into patient records as an after-the-fact test.

Earlier this year, ECRI Institute, a 50-year-old nonprofit organization that evaluates medical devices and technology, issued its “Top 10 Healthcare Technology Hazards” to watch for in 2021. The organization’s stated goal of producing the list is to prevent adverse events from medical technology.

One adverse event on the list is patient harm from a serious medication error. ECRI warns that fatal medication errors can occur when using EHRs and computerized provider order-entry systems. These systems are designed to save time.  One way is they show the full names of possible drugs after the practitioner enters just the first few letters of the prescribed medication.

However, this list of drugs with similar names can be confusing to a doctor, who may order the wrong medication from the list provided by the computerized device.  According to ECRI, 92% if FDA-approved drugs share the first three letters with at least one other drug.

Substandard Medical Devices and Medical Equipment

The list of medical technology hazards also includes the use by hospitals and other medical professional providers of consumer-grade medical devices, including:

·         Finger pulse oximeters

·         Blood pressure cuffs

·         Glucose monitors

ECRI warns that these and other healthcare equipment may be substandard, compared to medical-grade, as most consumer-grade medical devices are not subject to stringent FDA guidelines.  When used by medical providers, they may be unreliable, which could lead to a potentially fatal misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis.

The use of artificial intelligence can also lead to a misdiagnosis, ECRI warns. AI systems are dependent on data input to “learn,” and if the data used is suspect or incomplete, dependence on these hi-tech systems can lead to substandard care or medical errors, including treatment plans based on medical imaging results, for example.

Another medical technology threat are medical devices made for specific patients via 3D printing. If not properly designed or improperly manufactured, ECRI notes 3D-printed medical devices can lead to:

·         Patient infection

·         Delays in a necessary medical procedure

·         Surgical complications

Medical technology, used correctly, potentially offers life-saving benefits. But when used incorrectly or without proper caution, it can unnecessarily and catastrophically injure the very people it is designed to help.

Preventable errors in medical care, whenever or however made, should not happen. Speak with an attorney who represents victims of medical malpractice if you believe your or a loved one were seriously hurt while receiving medical treatment.

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

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Blog February 25, 2021