ECRI has highlighted the top health technology safety hazard for 2024: the difficulties faced by patients and caregivers when using medical devices at home. This assessment comes from a rigorous report compiled by ECRI, which selected topics and gathered insights from incident investigations, reporting databases, and independent medical device testing.

Evidence shows that more people are receiving medical care at home as the U.S. population ages and the number of adults living with chronic conditions increases. As a result, medical devices such as infusion pumps and ventilators are now being used in the home, sometimes by caregivers and patients who have not been sufficiently trained.

Most medical devices are designed for use by healthcare professionals in a controlled clinical environment and thus may be too complex for laypeople to use safely and effectively, ECRI researchers say.

“Severe harm can result from the misuse or malfunction of medical devices in the home,” said Marcus Schabacker, MD, PhD, president and CEO of ECRI. “Patients and caregivers who misinterpret device readings may feel a false sense of security. Errors may go undetected or unreported, making it difficult to identify problematic trends.”

ECRI researchers encountered numerous examples of patient harm from home-use devices. Medication errors can occur when changing infusion pumps. Skin injuries can occur when the electrodes from a cardiac monitor are applied incorrectly. Fatalities can occur if a home ventilator alarm fails to activate or goes unheard, or if the venous needle becomes dislodged during use of a hemodialysis machine.

Now in its 17th year, ECRI’s Top 10 Health Technology Hazards report identifies critical healthcare technology issues. Since its creation in 2008, the list has supported hospitals, health systems, ambulatory surgery centers, and manufacturers in mitigating risks.

In ranked order, ECRI’s Top 10 Health Technology Hazards for 2024 are:

  1. Usability challenges with medical devices in the home
  2. Insufficient cleaning instructions for medical devices
  3. Drug compounding without technology safeguards
  4. Environmental harm from patient care
  5. Insufficient governance of AI in medical technologies
  6. Ransomware as a critical threat to the healthcare sector
  7. Burns from single-foil electrosurgical electrodes
  8. Damaged infusion pumps risk medication errors
  9. Defects in implantable orthopedic products
  10. Web analytics software and the misuse of patient data

“When a medical device is designed, it’s critical that human factors and the end user be considered,” said Schabacker. “As more patients receive medical care outside hospitals and nursing homes, the reality of modern care settings should influence the design of devices and other supplies we need to keep patients healthy.”