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Report Sheds Light on Key U.S. Patient Safety Concerns

As medicine and technology continue to intersect and advance, medical mistakes remain a major safety concern and, annually, result in the injury and death of hundreds of thousands of U.S. patients. In an effort to identify those mistakes that are the most prevalent and damaging to patient safety, the Economic Cycle Research Institute recently released its "Top 10 Patient Safety Concerns for Healthcare Organizations."

In this three-part blog post series, we'll examine key findings of the report as well as steps patients can take to protect against medical errors. For example, hospital alarm hazards topped the ECRI's list of patient safety concerns. While previous reports cited safety concerns related to the overuse of alarms in contributing to so-called alarm fatigue, this year's list focuses on problems related to improperly configured alarms.

Today, nearly every piece of medical equipment comes equipped with some sort of alarm feature. However, according to the ECRI report, most hospitals fail to institute "alarm configuration policies and procedures." Consequently alarm settings that should be specifically tailored to monitor the needs of pediatric patients may instead default to those used to monitor adult patients.

Ranking second on ECRI's list of patient safety concerns, are issues related to electronic health records and data integrity. While the many benefits of EHRs are often touted, risks to patients and their privacy and safety can arise in cases where the use of EHRs are "not designated appropriately, implemented carefully, and used thoughtfully."

Say for example that an intake nurse inputs incorrect data into a patient's EHR. Once entered, this error is now duplicated and more readily shared. Additionally, depending on how an EHR system is set up, certain recording errors may result if fields auto-populate or automatically carryover old or outdated information.

In our next blog post, we'll continue to examine some of the top safety concerns that can adversely impact patient health.

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