New Technologies, Learning Curves and Patient Safety

According to a recent study, adopting new medical technologies too quickly can lead to an increased risk of patient harm. As reported in Modern Healthcare, the authors of the study “advise hospitals to avoid using new devices without first considering the education, training and awareness needed to ensure safety.” Specifically, the lead author writes that “there is a need for standardized training programs, rules governing surgeon competence and credentialing, and guidelines for hospitals to follow when novel technologies become available.”

We agree that patient safety and competency with new technology are important factors for all physicians, dentists and facilities to consider. Formal processes should be utilized to train all clinical staff involved in the use of any new technology. Additionally, if warranted, specific credentialing requirements should be adopted by the medical staff to ensure that physicians are properly trained and proficient in use of a new device/technology.  Facilities should have very specific policies and procedures in place to investigate and evaluate any new equipment prior to its purchase and use on patients. These policies and procedures should promulgate a prudent and cautious approach to incorporating a new technology into your practice or facility. It should also be a facility standard to have any piece of equipment put through a full inspection by the bio-medical engineering department prior to its use. The judicious introduction of new technology, which has been well planned and thoughtfully implemented, will lessen the likelihood of misadventures that could result in patient harm.

There always is a learning curve when putting new technology into practice. Our closed claims and suits involving allegations of improper implementation of new technology are collected and analyzed at MLMIC. The lessons learned from this information are shared with our policyholders through education to minimize harm to patients and financial loss to insureds. As an experienced professional liability carrier, we provide quality protection and well-founded advice through such learning curves.