ECRI names top 10 healthcare tech dangers

By Bernie Monegain
10:28 AM

Hazards from clinical alarms top the list of 10 technology hazards for 2012, according to the ECRI Institute, an independent nonprofit that researches the best approaches to improving patient care.

Now in its fifth year of publication, ECRI Institute bills its annual Top 10 hazard list as a comprehensive report designed to raise awareness of the potential dangers associated with the use of medical devices and systems. Most significantly, the report includes action-oriented recommendations on addressing these risks.

The top 10 hazards on ECRI Institute’s 2012 list are:

  1. Alarm hazards
  2. Exposure hazards from radiation therapy and computed tomography (CT)
  3. Medication administration errors using infusion pumps
  4. Cross-contamination from flexible endoscopes
  5. Inattention to change management for medical device connectivity
  6. Enteral feeding misconnections
  7. Surgical fires
  8. Needlesticks and other sharp injuries
  9. Anesthesia hazards due to incomplete pre-use inspection
  10. Poor usability of home-use medical devices

“With so many health technologies being used today, it can be difficult for hospitals to decide how to
prioritize their safety efforts,” said James P. Keller, Jr., ECRI Institute’s vice president, Health
Technology Evaluation and Safety. "Our list can be used as a guide to help hospitals focus on the most important issues.”

The Top 10 Health Technology Hazards list is updated each year based upon information found in ECRI Institute’s medical device problem reporting databases, ECRI Institute PSO, and the judgment, analysis, and expertise of the organization’s multidisciplinary patient safety staff. Some hazards remain for several years if still deemed critical, and others are removed to make room for new more pressing safety concerns.

Each of the hazards in the 2012 report met one or more of the following criteria: 

  • It has resulted in injury or death
  • It has occurred frequently
  • It can affect a large number of individuals
  • It has had a high profile or wide-spread news coverage

Lastly, to make the list, there had to be clear steps that hospitals can take now to minimize the risks from each of the hazards.

This year, in addition to the published top 10 report, ECRI Institute has developed a Web-based survey tool to help hospitals assess their facility’s risk in each of the 10 areas. The new tool is available exclusively to members of ECRI Institute’s Health Devices System.

“Every hospital should develop a team of health technology safety champions,” says Keller. “Their number one assignment should be to protect their patients from the type of risks on our list. The new self-assessment tool was designed to help them do that.”

The Top 10 Health Technology Hazards List for 2012 is available for free download from ECRI Institute’s website at: To watch a short video about this year’s list, click here.

The top 10 list was originally published in the November 2011 issue of ECRI Institute’s Health Devices journal.