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Top 10 Healthcare Technology Hazards for 2011

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, December 1, 2010

Many such incidents can result from a phenomenon some call "alarm fatigue" when the number of alarms begins to overwhelm staff provoking them to modify alarm settings to reduce alarm overload.

In effect, that may result in the alarm being disabled.

3. Cross Contamination from Flexible Endoscopes.
This hazard, which results from improperly reprocessed flexible endoscopes, was ranked No. 1 in ECRI's 2010 list but remains a significant issue.

"At minimum, endoscope reprocessing problems, when discovered, can inconvenience patients and create anxiety; at worst, they can lead to life-threatening infections," report says.

For example, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs tested at least 10,000 patients after discovering that endoscopes and accessories weren't properly decontaminated at several medical centers. And in June, two hospitals reported contacting thousands of patients regarding potential exposure to infection.

With the scheduled removal of the Steris System 1 sterilizing units, hospitals will be purchasing new units, changing protocols, and maybe buying new endoscope models, the authors say.  They advise providers to review protocols, staff training and maintenance schedules.

4. The High Radiation Dose of CT Scans.
With a 2009 study suggesting that 29,000 cases of cancer may have been caused by radiation doses administered during CT imaging scans in 2007 alone, the CT scan's use and perhaps overuse has come under the spotlight. "While the increased risk of cancer cannot be reliably quantified, it clearly is a risk that healthcare facilities must take steps to mitigate," the authors write, adding "there is no regulatory dose limit in diagnostic radiology."

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