Alarm Hazards Top ECRI’s List of 2015 Health Technology Risks

November 26, 2014 in News

Alarm hazards, such as inappropriate configuration, are the No. 1 health technology hazard hospitals will face in 2015, according to a new report by ECRI Institute, MedCity News reports (Baum, MedCity News, 11/25).

Details of Report

To compile the annual Top 10 Health Technology Hazards report, ECRI Institute staff reviewed health technology problem reports from health facilities worldwide, as well as reports from the ECRI Institute Patient Safety Organization, according to a release.

Physicians, nurses, scientists, engineers and patient safety experts collaborated on the report (ECRI Institute release, 11/25).


According to the report, these issues — ranked numerically — comprise the top 10 health technology hazards for 2015:

  1. Alarm hazards, including issues with configuration policies and practices;
  2. Data integrity, such as lost electronic health record data;
  3. IV line mix-ups, causing patients to receive incorrect drugs;
  4. Inadequate surgical equipment processing;
  5. Ventilator disconnections;
  6. Patient-handling device use errors;
  7. “Dose creep,” meaning variations in radiation exposure that go unnoticed;
  8. Robotic surgery complications stemming from insufficient training;
  9. Cybersecurity; and
  10. Over-stressed safety alert and recall management programs (Hall, FierceHealthIT, 11/26).

Alarm hazards have ranked at the top of the list for four consecutive years (ECRI Institute release, 11/25). Report authors said alarm configuration issues arise when hospitals select default settings without:

  • Considering which alarms to enable;
  • Choosing alarm limits; or
  • Establishing a default priority level for the alarm.


The authors recommended that facilities address the issue by:

  • Training staff on alarm policy and retraining when appropriate; and
  • Limiting the number of people who determine the default settings, perhaps by making only one person responsible.

Specifically, the authors advised people who configure alarm settings to consider:

  • Patient needs;
  • Care area; and
  • Clinical indicators about patient acuity levels (MedCity News, 11/25).
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