By Julie Kirst, Chief Editor, 24×7 JulieKirst 211

As each New Year approaches, most of us consider the year gone by and what we would like to change in the coming months. We take stock of not only our personal lives, but also our working world. We may look at how we can offer better service, streamline our tasks, and—for the clinical/biomedical engineering field—you may specifically look at how to solve some of the long-standing issues or the new pressing ones.

Each year, ECRI Institute presents its annual Top 10 list of health technology hazards that it feels deserve extra attention. Its Top Ten Hazards for 2012 include some risks that seem to occur with regularity and ones it says will become “more prevalent as the technology landscape evolves.”
Alarms hazards topped the list for 2012. According to ECRI Institute, this continues to represent a high-impact patient safety concern. The organization recommends focusing on management strategies this year that will reduce the alarm burden and facilitate more effective responses to conditions that warrant attention.

It lists medication administration errors using infusion pumps as the second hazard. According to ECRI Institute, this year it suggests discussing the role that “integrating infusion pumps (eg, with electronic ordering, administration, and documentation systems) can play in reducing errors.” It defined this as a multiyear process that it believes represents the next step in infusion safety. It also says it will require plenty of involvement from clinical engineers.

Other items include radiation exposure hazards; health IT topics such as patient/data mismatches in electronic health records, and other health IT systems; interoperability failures with medical devices and health IT systems; caregiver distractions from smartphones and other mobile devices; air embolism hazards; inattention to the needs of pediatric patients when using “adult” technologies; managing infection risks associated with endoscopic devices and surgical instruments; and surgical fires—listed as the 10th hazard.

ECRI Institute encourages hospitals to view the list (available as a free download at and see it as a starting point to discuss these patient safety issues and step up to the challenge of finding solutions.

While it appears technology and digital processes will take over, one company addresses the fact that paper and pen still have a place in health care. Offering a solution of its own to meet interoperability challenges, Anoto Group created digital pen and paper technology. It says, “Despite the common wisdom that a smartphone or tablet is the best choice when considering a mobile solution, there remains an enormous range of health care documents and papers that still need to be filled out or marked up by hand.” Many of our readers attest to this fact when it comes to filling out reports.

Anoto offers a digital pen that looks, feels, and writes like a normal ballpoint pen, but contains an integrated digital camera, an advanced image microprocessor, and a mobile communications device for wireless connection. It says that by using a digital pen on a surface covered with its patented dot pattern, users can capture, store, and then securely send the handwriting, enabling them to convert ink to digital data in seconds.

In the coming year, whether your department works on solving persistent hazards, or seeks out ways to meet new challenges, we at 24×7 wish you success. We also hope you will make a point of sharing ideas with your colleagues so that they too can step up to and overcome their challenges. Happy New Year! 24×7 January 2013, Up Front column.