3 Top Health Technology Hazards and How They Are Avoided

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Doctor performing surgeryTechnology revolutionizes the health care industry by improving patient outcomes and promoting efficiency of health care facilities across the globe. However, these advancements don’t come without limitations. Discover three of the top hazards associated with health IT and how the industry works to avoid them.

Endoscopes Can Spread Diseases

Flexible endoscopes allow physicians to explore the body’s cavities and organs in remarkable detail. However, these technological marvels can harbor dangerous pathogens which can cause outbreaks of deadly diseases in the facilities where technicians use them, according to John Commins of HealthLeaders Media.
In response to a series of fatal Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae infections in 2014 and 2015, the ECRI Institute named inadequate cleaning of flexible endoscopes as the greatest health technology hazard hospitals and other health care providers face in 2016.
Correct cleaning, followed by thorough sterilization, can overcome this problem, but a full cleaning can be difficult to do. According to Commins, medical staff face difficulties sterilizing duodenoscopes, forms of endoscopes, due to their narrow channels. Some facility practitioners may also miss the precleaning step, a missed step which could cost lives.

Alarms Can Be Missed

While missed alarms slipped to number two on the ECRI Institute’s list in 2015, missed alarms topped the institute’s report in the previous four consecutive years. Clinical alarms can play a valuable role in preventing patient injury and death, but only if medical staff heed them. ECRI notes that patients can be at risk when medical devices do not detect alarms, when medical staff receive no notifications of the alarms, and when medical workers do not respond to alarms in a timely fashion.
ECRI recommends health care facilities implement comprehensive alarm management programs to make sure clinical alarms are not missed. While many health care facilities work to overcome this hazard, according to ECRI representative Rob Schluth, facility staff still need to remain vigilant.

Cyberattacks Put Patient Records at Risk

HealthIT.gov outlines several advantages of EHRs, electronic health records, including remote access to patient charts, alerts about potential medication errors, and reminders for care meetings and preventive care checkups. However, online health records are at risk of cyberattacks.
The IDC Health Insights group estimates one in three people will have their health care records compromised by cyberattacks in 2016. These attacks will make sensitive data, including Social Security and credit card numbers, vulnerable. Cybercriminals could also use the data they steal to file fraudulent medical claims and get medications for reselling, according to ComputerWorld’s Lucas Mearian.

Mearian said too many health care facilities use outdated electronic security systems which offer minimal protection against modern threats. The KPMG’s Health Care and Cyber Security report, released in October 2015, supports this assertion. The report itself declared that, among other factors, the use of antiquated electronic medical records and clinical applications not designed to run securely in a modern network environment puts patient data at risk. The report also stated that health care providers must invest in cybersecurity measures employing the latest health informatics developments to overcome increasing threats.

As with many innovations, serious risks surround many of the technologies used in the health care sector. Industry professionals must understand these risks and work to reduce the impact of these types of hazards.

Learn More

If you are interested in furthering your career in health informatics, consider enrolling in the online Master of Science in Health Informatics degree program with the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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Image via Flickr by Andy G