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New Medical Technology Can Lead to Errors that Create Liability if Users Are Not Properly Trained

Scientific advances and improvements in medical technology are helping people to live longer and be healthier than ever before. However, the increasing use of medical technology and complex medical equipment brings with it the need for adequate training of the medical staff and professionals who will use the equipment in order to prevent causing harm or death to patients.

Technology And Medical Errors

A September, 2013 study published in the Journal of Patient Safety estimated that preventable adverse events (PAEs) or preventable medical mistakes cause approximately 440,000 patient deaths each year. Based on this estimate, researchers estimate that PAE deaths account for roughly one-sixth of all deaths that occur in US hospitals, making them the third-leading cause of death in the United States.

Experts say that preventable adverse events and near-misses often happen when new technology is introduced into a hospital or clinic setting without providing adequate training. Problems with new technology also can arise with how thoroughly new tools are tested, how well their use is understood by the medical staff, and how the tools are integrated into the healthcare delivery process.

For example, when the clinical staff at a hospital near Washington, D.C., misunderstood a confusion pop-up box on a new type of digital blood-sugar reader, they mistakenly gave insulin to a patient with low blood sugar. The patient did not medically need this insulin and it caused the patient to go into a diabetic coma.

In another case, a patient admitted to an Illinois hospital did not receive his previously prescribed psychiatric medicines for nearly three weeks because the pharmacy’s computer system was programmed to automatically cancel orders for certain types of drugs. The patient went without needed medication because nothing in the system’s programming alerted medical staff that the order for the needed drugs had been discontinued.

Reducing Medical Errors

Some hospitals and healthcare systems have become concerned about patient safety as it relates to new technology. They are establishing humanfactor research teams that investigate what can go wrong when new technology is implemented or installed. These teams then recommend ways to minimize the possible risks associated with implementing the new technology or medical equipment.

The national government is also concerned about technology and patient safety. In July, 2014, the United States Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging heard testimony from hospital quality experts. These experts urged lawmakers to establish measures to stop preventable medical errors in hospitals by increasing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s role in monitoring quality of care. They also recommended implementing a patient’s bill of rights which would include the right to know:

-The safety record of any hospital, medical clinic, or nursing home;

-The costs of tests and elective procedures in advance;

-When drugs are prescribed “off label” or for uses other than the uses approved by the FDA; and

-That the teams of healthcare professionals are evaluated through 360-degree performance reviews (which include considering feedback from subordinates, peers/colleagues, supervisors, as well as patients or other interested persons).

The experienced medical malpractice lawyers at Barrett, Fasig & Brooks have 30 years of experience investigating complex medical mistake or negligence lawsuits in the Tallahassee and Southern Georgia area. If you have suffered injury or harm due to a hospital or clinic’s medical error, please contact our Tallahassee office today at 850-224-3310 to set up a free initial consultation.

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