Beware these anticipated top hospital health hazards for 2019

Patients and providers alike should be aware of potential healthcare risks possible in 2019.

Every year, ECRI Institute, a nonprofit healthcare research organization, puts out a list of anticipated health technology hazards that hospitals, clinics, providers and healthcare organizations should be on the lookout for in the coming year. The top 10 list for 2019 was just released, and it highlights a wide range of potential hazards that could leave patients in Rhode Island and across the country dealing with injury, infection and more.

Hacking

Cybersecurity is ECRI's top concern for 2019. Hackers can not only access patient data, but they can also infiltrate many of the complex and complicated electronic machines hospitals and other providers use to keep patients alive and well. Patient lives could literally be at stake. It's up to providers to maintain adequate security to prevent such cyberattacks.

Mattresses and beds

Body fluid contamination on mattresses and beds is a huge risk of infection for in-patient and out-patient facilities alike. Mattresses, pads and covers must undergo a thorough cleaning and disinfecting between uses, and maintenance protocols must include regular inspections for holes or tears that could lead to trapped fluids (and thus contamination). Any remaining body fluids like blood or saliva can easily spread infection from patient to patient.

Retained surgical sponges

ECRI Institute understands the huge potential for harm that comes along with retained surgical sponges, which is why they named this particular - and all too common - surgical error as third on their list of hazards. Manual counting of surgical implements is commonplace in operating rooms across the country, but the issue of retained sponges remains. Inexpensive solutions like radiofrequency tags and barcodes provide a much more accurate accounting than manual methods. Even so, these methods are not yet universally adopted nationwide.

Infection/contamination of flexible endoscopes

Flexible, reusable endoscopes are common in operating theaters, hospitals, doctor's offices and in provider exam rooms across the country. These devices are very intricate and are a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses unless exactingly cleaned. Furthermore, recontamination is possible, even after proper disinfecting, without proper storage and transportation protocols. Any stored or trapped bacteria can pass from patient to patient, spreading infections like proverbial wildfire.

Injuries from patient lift systems

Overhead patient lift systems transport patients from beds to wheelchairs or gurneys, taking some of the literal weight off the backs of hospital staff. Unfortunately, though, it's possible to improperly install or use these systems, posing an injury risk for patients. Unless the patient is put into the sling correctly, and the machine itself is properly installed and used, injury to patients or staff is possible.

These are only a few of the projected top health technology hazards for 2019. Of course, these are not the only ways in which patients can suffer injury while in a hospital, doctor's office, clinic or operating room. If you or someone you love suffered injury because of a physician or other provider's (or facility's) negligence or malpractice, you have legal rights. Contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney like those at the Providence law office of DeLuca & Weizenbaum. Call them 401-354-7233 or 888-876-9415 or send an email to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.