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Cybersecurity, dirty mattresses among top hospital hazards

Cybersecurity attacks present the greatest risk to health care facilities in New Jersey and elsewhere, according to a new report by ECRI Institute. Other top threats include contaminated hospital bed mattresses, surgical sponges accidentally left inside patients' bodies and improperly set ventilator alarms.

The ECRI report, entitled "2019 Top 10 Health Technology Hazards," found that hackers can exploit remote access functionality on hospital computer systems, infiltrate the network, steal data and potentially hinder patient care. In order to prevent such attacks, the organization recommends that hospitals have a strong password policy, properly maintain and patch network systems and log system access.

The report also listed several other technology-related hazards commonly found in hospitals. For example, improperly disinfected hospital bed mattresses can retain bodily fluids, potentially exposing patients to infectious materials. In addition, surgical sponges are sometimes left inside the bodies of patients during operations, putting patients at risk for infections and other medical problems. Finally, improperly set ventilator alarms can increase the risk of hypoxic brain injury or brain death, while improper handling of flexible endoscopes can expose patients to serious infections.

All the situations listed above are forms of medical malpractice that could place patients at grave risk for infections, medical complications and even death. Victims of medical malpractice may have grounds to file a civil lawsuit against the doctor and medical facility that caused them harm. If the suit is successful, a victim might be awarded financial compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages and other losses. An attorney familiar with medical malpractice claims may be able to review a patient's case and determine if the doctor or hospital failed to provide the required standard of care.

Source: Health Leaders, "Hackers, Mattresses, Sponges Top ECRI Health Tech Hazards List," Oct. 3, 2018

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