Study Shows Need to Monitor Medical Devices

Study Shows Need to Monitor Medical Devices

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Ed Yeates ReportingIn his State of the Union address last night, President Bush called upon hospitals to develop more computerized systems to monitor and prevent medical errors.

Coincidentally, his words came on the heels of a collaborative study out of Utah, which for the first time tracked adverse events involving medical devices.

LDS Hospital, The University of Utah Hospital and the FDA were all involved in this latest study that shows a pressing need to do more surveillance of medical devices.

All medical machines have their own alarms when something goes wrong. But you have to hear them. A computerized hospital-wide system at LDS Hospital called HELP already red flags adverse drug interactions. But monitoring medical devices is something new that's just been added to the software.

Dr. Scott Evans, LDS Hospital Informatics: "So you don't have to be in that patient's room. You can be anywhere in that area."

But this is just a beginning. The Utah study shows a much more active surveillance system is needed to identify things that can happen with medical devices. Instead of current statistics which show adverse events only affect one in every one thousand patients - the study documents 64 out of every one thousand patients.

Matthew Samore, M.D., Clinical Epidemiology, U of U Hospital: "The more intensive surveillance methods yielded much higher rates of detection of device problems than traditional voluntary reporting."

So there's a need for better surveillance, but it's not easy. In hospitals, devices cover a broad spectrum. For example, everything in a room is a device - from monitors, pumps, even the bed, a bedpan, gloves - all devices.

Infection from a catheter tube, failed glue on a prosthetic knee joint, mistaken readings on a monitor. The list goes on.

More data needs to be collected, sorted out, and prioritized to see what can be tracked and red flagged by a more aggressive human and computer surveillance team.

The goal: to come up with a comprehensive surveillance program that can detect these adverse events when they're threatening, but not yet harmful to the patient.

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