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Technology can be a double-edged sword in some hospitals

Technology dominates most aspects of modern American life. It plays significant roles in commerce, communications, entertainment, science, the arts and healthcare. Many U.S. hospitals, including most of those in Maryland, now routinely use high-tech medical devices and equipment to be more competitive and more efficient and to provide quality medical services to patients. However, some of these devices are not entirely without dangers, and some can injure or kill patients when used incorrectly of when they fail.

In fact, health technology hazards are becoming increasingly common. Although these hazards are separate from surgical errors, medication errors and other forms of medical negligence, the potential outcome from a malfunctioning device can be severe to patients -- especially if they are used in critical care or surgical settings.

Technological medical hazards can be a product of information technology-related problems, inappropriate malware protection for certain machines, incomplete data processing and improper maintenance. Medical equipment malfunctions during medical procedures can be deadly. If a respirator, for instance, failed during surgery, a patient could suffer brain damage or brain death.

To address these concerns, a not-for-profit organization called ECRI Institute has listed the most dangerous technology hazards to patient safety. The first has a human component -- incorrect or missing data in a system's health IT system. Incorrect information entered by hospital staff can put patients at risk. Multiple IV lines without labels can cause confusion that could lead to medications being improperly administered. In this case, errors can be avoided by putting a proper label on each line.

If sterilizing equipment fails, infections can easily spread from patient to patient and then throughout a hospital through medical instruments and devices. Disinfecting and sterilizing all objects that can spread dangerous microorganisms is needed to save people from diseases that could be hard to treat with conventional antibiotics.

Source: Forbes, "Beware of These 10 Deadly Tech Hazards in Hospitals," Robert J. Szczerba, Feb. 11, 2015

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