Home Health Hazards

ECRI’s recent Top 10 Health Technology Hazards list includes home medical device safety issues that the industry must address.

May 2024 – The Journal of Healthcare Contracting

Considering the changes to healthcare brought on by the pandemic, many patients have been choosing to receive care within the comfort of their own homes instead of the hospital; a transition which has been made possible largely due to the switch to virtual care and innovation within at-home medical technology. However, most medical devices are still designed to be used by a medical professional in a hospital or clinical setting, requiring patients, more often, to seek in-person healthcare.

At-home patient care is a developing concept, and it does not come without risks for patients. According to a report from ECRI, one of the most pressing health technology safety concerns in 2024 are for patients and caregivers using medical devices at home. The ECRI Top 10 Health Technology Hazards list identifies the most critical healthcare technology issues annually. The list supports health systems, hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs), and distributors in mitigating potential industry risks. This year’s list includes home medical device safety issues, along with insufficient cleaning of medical devices, environmental harm from care, AI in healthcare, and more.

ECRI’s research report shows that more people are now receiving medical care at home due to the rise in the nation’s population and the number of patients living with chronic conditions increasing. As a result, medical devices such as infusion pumps and ventilators are being used at home more often. In some cases, patients and caregivers have not been properly trained on how exactly to use certain medical devices. Lack of proper medical device training is dangerous, as devices can lead to patient harm if used improperly.

“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.”

The report found that there have been numerous examples of patient injury resulting from home-use devices. Medication errors can occur from changing infusion pumps, skin injuries can occur when cardiac monitor electrodes are applied incorrectly, and fatalities can occur if home ventilator alarms go unheard by caregivers, or needles from hemodialysis machines dislodge, according to ECRI researchers.

Many medical devices are designed to be used in a controlled environment by healthcare professionals and are too complex for people to safely maintain at home. When medical devices are in the design stages, manufacturers consider the usability for the end user foremost. As patients increasingly receive care in their homes, ECRI researchers state that modern care settings should influence the design of medical devices going forward.


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

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