Technology as permeated many professions, and generally for the good. The same is true in the medical field, where technological advancements have really improved the care and treatment a healthcare provider is able to provide, as well as how well patient care is handled. Healthcare relies heavily on this new technology for surgeries, procedures, and even just routine patient care.
However, sometimes that technology fails. While medical professionals are trained to operate without technology, there are some instances where technological failures can be particularly catastrophic.
For instance, a patient’s entire file is generally kept in a database and in a computer. That includes the patient’s allergies, physician orders, and important conditions to monitor. Some monitoring devices will automatically upload critical data to the patient’s virtual chart. If the computer system crashes and goes down, it can result in serious confusion and a lack of information on a patient. This is particularly dangerous if the patient is a high-risk patient, is on a lot of medications, or has severe allergies. It may not be easy to identify those conditions or medications, and errors can occur.
During a surgery technology can also fail. Many procedures are now performed laparoscopically. This requires several devices like air pressure, camera, and a machine to perform the surgery. If the electricity goes out, or if one of those tools breaks and cannot be retracted from the patient, it can result in very serious injuries to the patient. It can also result in a poor surgical result, or that the surgery must be aborted.
Also think of a patient who is on serious life-support or life-monitoring supplies. These devices are most surely on backup generators, but if these devices are unable to run properly or if the power does go out, it can result in the death of a patient. If a generally admitted patient—not a patient in ICU—Is also being monitored for vitals and the power goes out, that patient may not be on a backup. This means that hospital staff will have to manually check for vitals, record them on paper, and properly remember to keep checking.
As noted above, keeping track of medications is also very important. If medications are mixed which could have bad contradictions, it can result in very serious reactions which could kill a patient. Other medication errors could be giving on patient another patient’s medication, or not knowing what the physician’s order was and not having the proper dosage. This can all result in serious injuries to the patient, especially death.
Even if the technology in the hospital fail, it is not necessarily medical malpractice unless that failure results in an injury to a patient. Thus, the failing technology must be the proximate cause of the error and be the cause of the injury. As noted, many times the hospital has backup generators and tools to prevent the technology failure from causing an injury. And as also noted, many hospital staff are trained to operate without the use of technology.
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