Every day, all over the world, countless people put their lives in the hands of doctors, nurses, surgeons, psychiatrists, and other medical professionals, hoping and expecting to receive the care and attention they need to deal with a wide range of medical ailments and complaints.
In the vast majority of cases, these medical professionals are able to meet the needs of their patients to the best of their abilities, but in some cases, the errors of human nature occur, leading to an inaccurate diagnosis, an incorrect prescription, or even a serious surgical error.
Studies and statistics show that more than 250,000 deaths occur every year in the US because of medical errors. It’s a frightening statistic, reminding everyone that even doctors don’t always get things right, while also reminding medical professionals of the incredible weight of responsibility that sits on their shoulders every time they talk to a patient or prescribe a treatment.
In this modern world, advancements in health technology should logically help to reduce the rate of these kinds of errors occurring, reducing the number of medical malpractice cases and helping to save lives worldwide, but new technologies bring new risks along with them.
Each year, the Emergency Care Research Institute is one of several leading healthcare organizations to publish lists of the leading health tech hazards for medical professionals to be aware of. Inspired by their research and the findings of others, here are some of the most serious hazards that can pose a risk of medical malpractice.
One of the most exciting new breakthroughs in the world of health technology is surgical robots, which may effectively be able to carry out various forms of surgery on patients with pinpoint precision, eliminating the risks of human error altogether and improving the success rate of many operations.
At least, that’s the theory. In practice, many of these new robots are simply untested in real-life settings. Even though they have many potential benefits and could be used to great effect in the future, it’s important for medical institutions to proceed with caution in regard to these new robots, putting models to the test and carrying out a range of safety checks and approval processes before actually putting them to work.
Surgical staplers are devices commonly used in surgical operations to staple or seal tissue in place, with some models also being used to cut through tissue too. These devices can be very useful in the right hands, but improper use of surgical staplers can be disastrous.
Patients can suffer from internal bleeding, severe tissue damage, hemorrhaging, and more due to staples being misapplied or staple lines failing during or after an operation. One FDA analysis revealed that over 400 deaths and more than 11,000 injuries have occurred since 2011 due to misuse of staplers.
Lack of Sterilization
Sterilization is absolutely essential in any place of work that offers medical treatments, surgeries, and practices. Whether it’s a hospital operating theater or a dental clinic waiting room, hygiene and sanitation are simply vital.
One of the biggest risks in modern times, just like in years gone by, is a failure to sterilize some of the many modern devices and technological advancements that may be used to treat patients. Some of these new devices can be quite difficult to keep clean, which may result in pathogens being introduced into the patient’s bodies.
It’s becoming increasingly common for patients to be fitted with remote monitoring devices, allowing their healthcare providers to monitor their conditions, prescribe treatments, and track changes in their health from a distance. This can be highly convenient and comfortable for both patient and doctor, but there are risks to take into account when connected digital devices are concerned.
These devices rely on Wi-Fi and other connections to remain active and operational. Should a patient’s home network go down or get hacked in some way, the device may become ineffective or unable to update. They need to be protected against cybersecurity risks, as well as being able to stay online at all times.
Ventilator alarms have proven highly useful in countless situations, letting medical staff know if a ventilator is failing or suffering any kind of fault or technical issue that might prevent a patient from getting the respiratory assistance they require.
However, since there are so many alarms associated with different medical devices sounding off each and every day, some medical professionals have started suffering from a condition called ‘alarm fatigue’, in which they effectively become desensitized to these sounds and fail to notice when a new alarm starts going off.
Central Venous Catheters
A lot of patients with kidney disease are given treatment with the aid of new central venous catheters, even when other treatment options may be more viable. These catheters are usually placed inside the jugular vein, providing them with a clear and direct path straight to the patient’s heart. This makes them highly useful, but simultaneously quite dangerous.
Not only are there risks of infection if the catheter isn’t properly sterilized, but if it accidentally disconnects somehow, the patient can suffer severe blood loss. Other risks include air embolism and clotting, and in modern times, there’s an increasing movement towards the use of these catheters in home settings, without surrounding clinical staff and facilities to cope with any accidents or issues that may arise.
It’s clear to see that the health tech innovations can bring a lot of benefits to the medical world, improving diagnoses, prescriptions, surgeries, and more, but these new technologies can’t simply be introduced without weighing up the potential risks and issues they can cause and developing strategies to respond to those risks accordingly.
From surgical staplers to remote patient monitoring devices, there are plenty of risks associated with these new devices and treatment techniques. Medical professionals must be willing to adapt to these changes in the right ways, adjusting their approach as needed to make the best use of modern advancements while also minimizing the dangers associated with them.