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When technology is the cause of medical errors

Today’s workplaces are growing increasingly reliant upon technologies and devices that aim to streamline and standardize processes. While technological advances are necessary and frequently credited with increasing productivity and reducing human errors, at times these technologies pose safety hazards.

In a healthcare setting the stakes are incredibly high and, regardless of how seemingly minor, every mistake is magnified. An increasing reliance on technology within hospitals and operating rooms can result in unforeseen problems that can adversely impact patient safety.

When it comes to patient care, nearly every piece of equipment used in a hospital setting is equipped with an alarm system that sounds when something is wrong. The problem, however, is that these alarms sound so frequently and for so many different reasons that they often go unnoticed and unanswered. In cases where an alarm sounds due to a legitimate emergency, a caregiver’s failure to respond may result in a patient suffering injury or even death.

The widespread use of electronic health records also provides many opportunities for communication deficiencies that may adversely impact patient care. EHR systems can be complicated and attempts to capture a comprehensive record of a patient’s health history can provide more opportunities for data entry errors and omissions of important medical data.

At many hospitals across the country, the operating room is home to one of the most significant and obvious technological advances. Robotic surgery has revolutionized how so-called minimally invasive procedures are performed. The use of a robotic vs. a human hand to perform a surgical procedure requires much education, training and communication on the part of not only the surgeon operating the device, but also every surgical staff member thereby increasing the likelihood that a medical mistake may occur.

In a hospital setting, decisions that impact the physical and overall health and wellbeing of patients are made all day, every day. In cases where health care providers must rely on technology to aid in making those decisions, medical mistakes may occur that are systematic in nature and impact hundreds or even thousands of patients.

Source: Forbes, “Beware Of These 10 Deadly Tech Hazards In Hospitals,” Robert J. Szczerba, Feb. 11, 2015

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