ECRI Blog

Spread Best Practices, Not Infection: Our Commitment to CDC’s Challenge on Anti-Microbial Resistance

Anti-microbial resistance (AMR) presents serious global concerns, now and in the future. The World Health Organization (WHO) lists AMR as a top ten threat to public health. Last year, there were 700,000 deaths worldwide from AMR. That number is expected rise to 10 million a year in 2050—more lethal than cancer—if we fail to change what we are doing today.

Google the term “superbug” and you’ll see close to 4,000,000 hits. The rise of superbugs—microbes resistant to powerful drugs—led the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to create the AMR Challenge, a year-long effort to accelerate the fight against antimicrobial resistance across the globe. CDC mobilized commitments from more than 270 countries and organizations around the world, including my organization, ECRI Institute. Action-based commitments are key. Without action, many nations risk slipping back into the pre-antibiotic era, compromising the success of major surgery, cancer chemotherapy, and other health care—and serious economic impacts, too. 

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Topics: Patient Safety, Technology Trends

ECRI Data Help Reignite Support for Patient Identifier in Congress

After heart disease and cancer, medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States and include misdiagnoses, incorrect anesthesia, delayed treatment, and patient misidentification.

Patient identification has been on the minds of healthcare leaders and policy makers for more than two decades. When the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was signed into law in 1996, it called for developing a national patient identifier that would solve patient misidentification by assigning a unique, permanent number to every individual in the United States. The idea was to implement a uniform approach for accessing a patient’s medical history across the healthcare system. After HIPAA became law, Congress blocked this effort over privacy concerns, and the issue gradually faded from public attention.

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Topics: Industry Trends, Patient Safety

Reining in Unbridled Uses of Robotic-Assisted Surgery

A 2019 JAMA viewpoint article, Is It Time for Safeguards in the Adoption of Robotic Surgery?, explores the risks associated with the increasing, uncontrolled, and indiscriminate use of robotic-assisted surgery. We could not agree more.

For more than two decades, ECRI Institute has been emphasizing these risks based on our evidence assessments and patient safety work. We do not dispute the many potential benefits of minimally invasive robotic surgery procedures. However, we are solidly grounded in the “show me the evidence” camp. Our concerns fall squarely in three areas: patient safety and surgeon experience, evidence, and cost.

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Topics: Industry Trends, Technology Trends

Three Costly Pitfalls of Purchased Services Contracts

Purchased services are seen as the next great savings frontier in healthcare—and with good reason. Spend on purchased services accounts for approximately 30 to 35 percent of a hospital’s non-labor expenditures. Tapping into even a small portion of that spend can lead to significant financial savings. However, purchased services contracts are complex and the legal language can be difficult to understand. What seems like a competitively low price may actually result in unexpected charges and poor performance outcomes.

Over the past few years, I’ve worked with many hospitals and health systems on purchased services contracts and have seen my share of “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” What are some of the recurring themes? Some vendors bury language that is advantageous to their business. They omit key information and make performance management difficult for the hospital. While every purchased services contract is unique and every circumstance is different, it is possible to mitigate common traps and omissions that can lead to unexpected costs, poor performance, and no remedy when things go south.

Looking for service contract pitfalls to avoid? Check out my top three purchased services contract problem areas to gain the insight you need to improve the quality of services and drive savings across your organization.

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Topics: Supply Chain

4 Ways to Prevent Harm from Surgical Staplers

If you’ve been following medical device safety issues this year, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the headlines about patient injuries and deaths related to internal surgical staplers. The devices are commonly used in many high-risk surgical procedures. Misuse and malfunction of surgical staplers can lead to serious complications—as we’ve seen during our own research and accident investigations.

The stapler cases we investigate tend to be associated with serious injuries or fatalities, some of which could have been prevented. The overall adverse event rate is low relative to the number of times staplers are used; however, cases of preventable death are chilling. This has led ECRI Institute to thoroughly research and evaluate staplers and to publish safety hazards to our members. In fact, surgical staplers have appeared twice on our annual list of Top 10 Health Technology Hazards— first in 2010 and again in 2017.

So, why is this decades-old technology in the news now? And, more importantly, what can you do to keep patients safe?

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Topics: Health Devices, Patient Safety, Accident Investigation

Avoiding the Blame Game in Preventing Medical Errors

In late 2017, a catastrophic medication error led to a patient death at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. While waiting for a PET scan, an elderly woman was incorrectly administered vecuronium, a paralyzing neuromuscular blocker, rather than the prescribed sedative Versed. It was reported that, because vecuronium suppresses normal respiration and the patient was left unattended while waiting for the test, she suffered cardiopulmonary arrest. Although she was resuscitated, it was too late to prevent brain death, and she was later removed from life support.

This case was widely reported in the media as an example of preventable medical errors that injure or kill too many patients, despite our efforts to make healthcare safer. As we reach the 20-year anniversary of To Err Is Human, the landmark Institute of Medicine report that crystalized the patient safety movement in the U.S., we must humble ourselves with the knowledge that while we’ve made many improvements, there is still much more work to do.

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Topics: Patient Safety

The Monopoly Board of Clinical Guidelines

When the closure of the National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC) hit the news, the ECRI team who worked on the contract felt as though we had lost a dear friend. After all, we had a 20-year history with NGC. That’s a long relationship by any measure. Yet, we had little time to mourn because we had an organizational commitment to disseminate evidence-based guidelines into practice.

ECRI’s decision to create its own guideline repository was welcome news to many members of the guideline community. However, it left some people wondering how our new repository would compare to NGC. I’m here to tell you that the ECRI Guidelines Trust® is not a reboot of NGC. NGC was a groundbreaking initiative, and it should hold its own place in guideline history.

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Topics: Guidelines Trust

Your Smart Phone Will See You Now

The science of forecasting medical technology is lousy. We hear so many pundits predicting the next revolutionary medical technology advancement that it is literally impossible to keep track of them all.  It is not news that many of these predictions never come to pass. Nonetheless, amazing technology advances do occur and change medicine forever.

Just look back 80 years when hospital wards housed dozens of monstrous-looking devices called iron lungs. These life-saving devices treated people who were unable to breathe because of paralyzed chest muscles. Today, we don’t see hospitals with huge wards filled with iron lungs anymore. Who made that technology disappear? Certainly not the iron lung manufacturers. It wasn’t even a hardware technology innovation that changed patient care. It was a biologic—the polio vaccine—that changed the future of the hospital from treating dozens of polio cases to almost none. Who could have seen that coming?

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Topics: Industry Trends

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Our evidence supports the advancement of care around the world. Read our articles, get industry updates and trends, and learn a little more about us on the ECRI Institute blog.

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