ECRI: Poor sterilization, failure to learn from device problems threaten patient safety

Dive Brief: Properly investigating problems with medical equipment along with better cleaning, disinfecting and sterilizing […]

Dive Brief:

  • Properly investigating problems with medical equipment along with better cleaning, disinfecting and sterilizing of devices are among low-hanging fruit in improving patient safety, according to an annual list of the top 10 patient safety concerns put out by the nonprofit ECRI Institute.
  • Poor sterilization can result in surgical site infections, ECRI notes, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as saying they have a 3% mortality rate that costs the healthcare systems $3.3 billion annually.
  • For a third year in a row, the watchdog group named diagnostic errors, which some 12 million Americans each year may experience in the primary care setting. This year’s list called out missed or delayed diagnoses for their potential to impede timely, lifesaving care. In examining autopsies, ECRI found diagnostic errors may have contributed to death in one out of 10 cases studied.

Dive Insight:

ECRI said this year’s compilation of leading patient safety concerns is based on an analysis of more than 3.2 million patient safety events, combined with input from patient and medication safety experts.
Top-of-mind risks in 2020 mirror some of the organization’s thinking with the 2019 list. For example, antimicrobial stewardship is a repeat priority, as are standardizing safety across healthcare systems and identifying patients’ behavioral health needs.
Also claiming a top spot for 2020 are issues with maternal healthcare, with ECRI saying that more than half of the 700 U.S. childbirth-related deaths each year are preventable.
When it comes to drugs, highlights this year include faulty antibiotic prescriptions (wrong dose or indication, or prescriptions that last too long) and overrides of automated dispensing cabinets, which may result in removing medications prior to pharmacist review and approval.
The list is especially applicable as healthcare facilities treat patients with COVID-19, ECRI said. “Proactively addressing many of the concerns on this list is an essential part of preventing the further spread of the novel coronavirus.”
ECRI previously outlined the top health technology hazards for 2020, a list that included everything from surgical stapler misuse, overreliance on point-of-care ultrasound, unproven robotic procedures and at-home hemodialysis to loose nuts and bolts in medical equipment. Like the patient safety concerns roundup, the health tech hazards list called out improper sterilization of instruments or implants in medical offices.

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