Healthcare News & Insights

The 9 scariest IT threats your hospital may face in 2019

The year may be winding down, but that doesn’t mean you can relax and forget about potential technological hazards. To end the year strong and start 2019 with a bang, take stock of common threats to hospitals and how to address them. 

ECRI Institute recently released its list of the top health technology hazards for 2019, and there are some things on the list that may surprise you.

The institute focused its list on the general problems that could result from using certain kinds of medical technology, weighing factors like severity, frequency, breadth, insidiousness and preventability of hazards.

Top IT hazards

Get ready for the new year by reviewing the nine key tech threats facing hospitals today, straight from ECRI:

  1. Hackers can exploit remote access to systems, disrupting healthcare operations. When your systems are publicly accessible, criminals can use them to expose patient data and disable essential operations. Identify and monitor all remote access points, and make sure you have a strict cybersecurity policy.
  2. Retained sponges persist as a surgical complication, despite manual counts. Manually counting surgical sponges after a procedure is a common practice, but there’s often room for error, which can lead to sponges (and other items) being left inside patients. Look into technologies to supplement manual counting.
  3. Improperly set ventilator alarms put patients at risk for hypoxic brain injury or death. Setting alarms in case of ventilator disconnection or leaks is a simple way to keep patients safe, but many hospitals don’t have working alarms. Create policies on when to set those alarms and how often to inspect ventilators.
  4. Mishandling flexible endoscopes after disinfection can lead to patient infections. Scopes that have already been disinfected may seem like they’re in the clear, but if they’re not thoroughly dried afterward, infections can still be spread. They also shouldn’t be handled with unclean gloves.
  5. Confusing dose rate with flow rate can lead to infusion pump medication errors. Auto-program infusion pumps, and train employees regularly on where to enter dose rates and flow rates to avoid serious medication administration mistakes.
  6. Improper customization of physiologic monitor alarm settings may result in missed alarms. There’s a sweet spot between too many alarms. leading to alarm fatigue, and not enough alarms, which can endanger patients. Educate staff about how to set these alarms, and talk to your vendors about any tools they offer to make life easier.
  7. Injury risk from overhead patient lift systems. If patient lifts aren’t installed or used properly, they can cause more problems than they solve. Test the system after it’s installed, and regularly perform maintenance to keep lift systems in working condition.
  8. Cleaning fluid seeping into electrical components can lead to equipment damage and fires. Equipment must be cleaned and disinfected, but using too much cleaning fluid or applying it directly to systems could cause damage. Follow manufacturer instructions, and squeeze out excess liquid from sponges or cloths before using them.
  9. Flawed battery charging systems and practices can affect device operation. A device that’s not charged properly can be a significant problem. Make sure equipment has working battery gauges so you know when it should be charged.

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