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Medical technology still has room for human error

Technological advancements have greatly improved quality and length of life for Americans. Medical devices are a godsend, wonders with miraculous success stories. But, like any technology, the success rate is in the hands of the beholder.

To use some relatable household examples, think about your own devices. The dishwasher saves time, but not if it's filled with crud before you run a cycle. Meanwhile, a simple wrong key on the calculator gives a wholly inaccurate figure. Even though they're antiques today, all the old "setting the VCR" jokes remain as relevant as ever. Let's not get started on how wrong your GPS can be.

Health technology hazards

ECRI Institute has released the "Top 10 Health Technology Hazards for 2017," noted below. The primary dangers are missed safety steps, misuse and cleaning failures instead of some science-fiction higher concept like a rise of the machines.

  1. Infusion errors can be deadly when safety steps are overlooked
  2. Inadequate cleaning of reusable instruments causes infections
  3. Missed ventilator alarms causes patient harm
  4. Undetected opioid-induced respiratory depression
  5. Infection risks from temperature control devices in cardiothoracic surgery
  6. Software management gaps that put patients and their data at risk
  7. Occupational radiation hazards in hybrid operating rooms
  8. Automated dispensing cabinets can give incorrect medication
  9. Surgical stapler misuse and malfunction
  10. Device failure caused by cleaning products and practices

Human users define technology's success

The list is thorough and the common theme of human error jumps out, whether through use, cleaning and maintenance or software error. Machines are great tools that make life easier, but they must be programmed and maintained adequately to achieve the desired effects.

Medical negligence

From the moment you enter a doctor's office or clinic, it starts by pulling up your personal data, followed by routine checks like weight and blood pressure. As the exam gets more thorough, so do the many tools used. If a single item wasn't cleaned right or if there's a typo or errant data along the way, it can damage both analysis and treatment. The wrong software won't just cause bad test results, but it might issue the wrong medication or sedative. Infections travel through physical contact, but also through air and liquid.

Physicians treat and cure us, doing a great job the majority of the time. However, if you've left your doctor's appointment with a condition you didn't have upon entry, it's a serious matter of professional negligence. We all make mistakes, but medical licensing boards are in place to ensure safety for vulnerable patients. When it comes to health, the consequences of an errant can be deadly.

Think back to your GPS or VCR-programming days. Just one error can mess up the whole process, sometimes missing your mark entirely. Anyone who has experienced medical negligence or malpractice should consult with an attorney to make sure that you're compensated for any unnecessary exposure to harm.

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