ECRI: These are the 10 biggest patient safety problems for hospitals

Health IT remains a big factor in several patient hazards

Alarm hazards and data integrity issues are among the top patient safety concerns for health care organizations this year, according to a new report from the ECRI Institute.

ECRI is a not-for-profit organization that studies patient safety issues. Since 2009, ECRI has collected over 500,000 adverse-event reports from over 1,000 hospitals.

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According its second annual patient safety list, the top patient-safety concerns for health care organizations are:

  1. Alarm hazards;
  2. Data integrity;
  3. Managing patient violence;
  4. Mix-up IV lines;
  5. Care coordination during medication reconciliation;
  6. Failure to conduct independent double checks;
  7. Opioid-related events;
  8. Reprocessing of endoscopes and surgical instruments;
  9. Inadequate patient handoffs; and
  10. Medication errors related to pounds and kilograms.

See what topped the ECRI patient safety list in 2014

IT-related issues dominate ECRI's safety concerns

The report notes that alarm hazards are not limited to alarm fatigue. "In our experience, alarm-related adverse events—whether they result from missed alarms or from unrecognized alarm conditions—often can be traced to alarm systems that were not configured appropriately," says Rob Schluth, senior project officer at ECRI. Improved protocols for dealing with alarms are a high-priority issue for hospitals as they implement new Joint Commission recommendations, the report says.

Many of the safety concerns are related to the difficulty of managing health care IT.  Technology is "enabling us to do things we couldn't do before … but as with any disruptive technology, it also can have unintended consequences," says Bill Marella, executive director of operations and analytics for ECRI.

For instance, ECRI notes that overreliance on electronic health records (EHRs) can lead to errors in reconciling medications. More broadly, EHRs can lead to data integrity problems, such as default values failing to be cleared and copy-paste errors.

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Marella says the list is a reminder that, while patient safety has improved over the past decade, hospitals still have areas in which they can improve. "It's time to take stock and look at whether good systems are in place to prevent these kinds of problems," he says (Rice, Modern Healthcare, 4/6 [subscription required]; ECRI Institute release, 4/6).

The takeaway: A new report identifies several health IT issues as the top patient-safety concerns for health care organizations this year.

Reducing patient harm: How we can help has myriad resources to help you prevent patient harm and readmissions, including:

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