TOP 10: Health Tech Dangers to Watch Out For in 2015
As the world of health care technology grows, so do the dangers that come with it. Clinical alarm hazards, inadequate EHR systems and complications in robotic surgery are just a few of the potential dangers that hospitals and health systems should watch out for in 2015.
10. Inadequate Alarm Hazard Configuration Policies and Practices
When caregivers become overwhelmed by constant alarms, they experience what is known as “alarm fatigue.” This can be a serious problem, however, as just one alarm could mean the difference between saving a life.
Most alarm-related adverse events can often be traced back to inappropriate alarm configuration policies and practices.
9. Inaccurate/Missing Data in EHRs and Health IT Systems
EHRs provide the information clinicians need for making appropriate treatment decisions, but when errors exist, it can lead to incorrect treatment decisions and patient harm.
Patient/data mismatches, outdated information and clock synchronization errors between different devices and systems are things health providers should be wary of.
8. IV Line Mix-Ups
There are a number of ways that IV solutions can be administered to the wrong site or at the wrong rate. For instance, the infusion line could be connected to the wrong fluid container or the wrong pump channel, or the patient end of the infusion line could be connected to the wrong administration site.
An additional factor that can add confusion is the fact that smartpumps are unable to tell one line from another.
7. Inadequate Processing of Endoscopes and Surgical Instruments
Factors that can contribute to the improper cleaning of instruments include the intricacy of the instruments, incomplete or lengthy manufacturer instructions for cleaning, time pressures placed on reprocessing staff and insufficiently trained personnel.
6. Missed Alarms Causing Ventilator Disconnections
Ventilators incorporate sensors and alarms to warn caregivers when a disconnection occurs, but to be effective, alarms must be set to appropriate levels and must be heard when they sound.
5. Patient-Handling Device Use Errors and Failures
Patient-handling technologies are available to reduce the risk of staff and patient injury, but improper use of these devices along with failure to maintain them properly (or failures associated with the devices themselves) can result in injuries.
4. Unnoticed Variations in Diagnostic Radiation Exposures
With imaging technology that uses ionizing radiation, exposures to higher doses are associated with greater risks to the patient. Standard practice specifies that technologists use a dose that is “as low as reasonably achievable to acquire the desired diagnostic information.”
Radiation doses should be neither higher nor lower than is necessary to obtain a diagnostic-quality image.
3. Complications in Robotic Surgery
Complications in robotic surgeries have mainly occurred due to insufficient training. Factors such as the need to reposition team members or equipment to accommodate the size of the robot; the repositioning of the patient or accidental movement of the OR table during the procedure; and lapses in common safety practices and team communication all apply.
Facilities with such systems in place need to provide appropriate training, detailed credentialing and ongoing surgical team competency assessments to minimize patient risk.
2. Insufficient Protection for Medical Devices and Systems
While the trend towards networking and connectivity of medical devices grows, so does the vulnerability of such devices. Cyber security is a patient safety consideration that will require increases attention in the coming years.
1. Overwhelmed Recall and Safety Alert Management Programs
Various problems can occur with medical devices, ranging from lower-priority issues to potentially life-threatening ones. Problems can results in the issuance of recalls or safety notices from the manufacturer or safety alerts from organizations like FDA or ECRI Institute. Notices from these organizations are meant to inform facilities about identified problems before additional incidents occur.
Health care facilities must respond appropriately to such alerts to avoid preventable injury.
Sourced from ECRI Institute.
How UiPath robots are helping with the NHS backlog
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many hospitals to have logistical nightmares, as backlogs of surgeries built up as a result of cancellations. The BMJ has estimated it will take the UK's National Health Service (NHS) a year and a half to recover.
However software robots can help, by automating computer-based processes such as replenishing inventory, managing patient bookings, and digitising patient files. Mark O’Connor, Public Sector Director for Ireland at UiPath, tells us how they deployed robots at Mater Hospital in Dublin, saving clinicians valuable time.
When Did Mater Hospital implement the software robots - was it specifically to address the challenges of the pandemic?
The need for automation at Mater Hospital pre-existed the pandemic but it was the onset of COVID-19 that got the team to turn to the technology and start introducing software robots into the workflow of doctors and nurses.
The pandemic placed an increased administrative strain on the Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) department at Mater Hospital in Dublin. To combat the problem and ensure that nurses could spend more time with their patients and less time on admin, the IPC deployed its first software robots in March 2020.
The IPC at Mater plans to continue using robots to manage data around drug resistant microbes such as MRSA once the COVID-19 crisis subsides.
What tasks do they perform?
In the IPC at Mater Hospital, software robots have taken the task of reporting COVID-19 test results. Pre-automation, the process created during the 2003 SARS outbreak required a clinician to log into the laboratory system, extract a disease code and then manually enter the results into a data platform. This was hugely time consuming, taking up to three hours of a nurse’s day.
UiPath software robots are now responsible for this task. They process the data in a fraction of the time, distributing patient results in minutes and consequently freeing up to 18 hours of each IPC nurse’s time each week, and up to 936 hours over the course of a year. As a result, the healthcare professionals can spend more time caring for their patients and less time on repetitive tasks and admin work.
Is there any possibility of error with software robots, compared to humans?
By nature, humans are prone to make mistakes, especially when working under pressure, under strict deadlines and while handling a large volume of data while performing repetitive tasks.
Once taught the process, software robots, on the other hand, will follow the same steps every time without the risk of the inevitable human error. Simply speaking, robots can perform data-intensive tasks more quickly and accurately than humans can.
Which members of staff benefit the most, and what can they do with the time saved?
In the case of Mater Hospital, the IPC unit has adopted a robot for every nurse approach. This means that every nurse in the department has access to a robot to help reduce the burden of their admin work. Rather than spending time entering test results, they can focus on the work that requires their human ingenuity, empathy and skill – taking care of their patients.
In other sectors, the story is no different. Every job will have some repetitive nature to it. Whether that be a finance department processing thousands of invoices a day or simply having to send one daily email. If a task is repetitive and data-intensive, the chances are that a software robot can help. Just like with the nurses in the IPC, these employees can then focus on handling exceptions and on work that requires decision making or creativity - the work that people enjoy doing.
How can software robots most benefit healthcare providers both during a pandemic and beyond?
When the COVID-19 outbreak hit, software robots were deployed to lessen the administrative strain healthcare professionals were facing and give them more time to care for an increased number of patients. With hospitals around the world at capacity, every moment with a patient counted.
Now, the NHS and other healthcare providers face a huge backlog of routine surgeries and procedures following cancellations during the pandemic. In the UK alone, 5 million people are waiting for treatment and it’s estimated that this could cause 6,400 excess deaths by the end of next year if the problem isn’t rectified.
Many healthcare organisations have now acquired the skills needed to deploy automation, therefore it will be easier for them to build more robots to respond to the backlog going forwards. Software robots that had been processing registrations at COVID test sites, for example, could now be taught how to schedule procedures, process patient details or even manage procurement and recruitment to help streamline the processes associated with the backlog. The possibilities are vast.
The technology, however, should not be considered a short-term, tactical and reactive solution that can be deployed in times of crisis. Automation has the power to solve systematic problems that healthcare providers face year-round. Hospital managers should consider the wider challenge of dealing with endless repetitive work that saps the energy of professionals and turns attention away from patient care and discuss how investing in a long-term automation project could help alleviate these issues.
How widely adopted is this technology in healthcare at the moment?
Automation was being used in healthcare around the world before the pandemic, but the COVID-19 outbreak has certainly accelerated the trend.
Automation’s reach is wide. From the NHS Shared Business Service in the UK to the Cleveland Clinic in the US and healthcare organisations in the likes of Norway, India and Canada, we see a huge range of healthcare providers deploying automation technology.
Many healthcare providers, however, are still in the early stages of their journeys or are just discovering automation’s potential because of the pandemic. I expect to see the deployment of software robots in healthcare grow over the coming years as its benefits continue to be realised globally.
How do you see this technology evolving in the future?
If one thing is certain, it’s that the technology will continue to evolve and grow over time – and I believe there will come a point in time when all processes that can be automated, will be automated. This is known as the fully automated enterprise.
By joining all automation projects into one enterprise-wide effort, the healthcare industry can tap into the full benefits of the technology. This will involve software robots becoming increasingly intelligent in order to reach and improve more processes. Integrating the capabilities of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning into automation, for example, will allow providers to reach non-rule-based processes too.
We are already seeing steps towards this being taken by NHS Shared Business Service, for example. The organisation, which provides non-clinical services to around two-thirds of all NHS provider trusts and every clinical commissioning organisation in the UK, is working to create an entire eco-system of robots. It believes that no automation should be looked at in isolation, but rather the technology should stretch across departments and functions. As such, inefficiencies in the care pathway can be significantly reduced, saving healthcare providers a substantial amount of time and money.