Cross-contamination from flexible endoscopes and needlesticks/sharps injuries are included in a list of the top 10 health technology-related threats to safety of patients and healthcare workers, compiled by the nonprofit ECRI Institute. In the report, "Top 10 Health Technology Hazards for 2011," ECRI Institute lists what it believes are the potential sources of danger that warrant the greatest attention to increase awareness and prevent risks for the coming year.
The report points to numerous cases of cross-contamination from improperly reprocessed flexible endoscopes and notes, "At minimum, endoscope reprocessing problems, when discovered, can inconvenience patients and create anxiety; at worst, they can lead to life-threatening infections." The report adds that these incidents are "almost always associated either with failure to follow established cleaning and disinfection/sterilization guidelines and instructions or with the use of damaged or malfunctioning equipment. Flexible endoscope reprocessing requires consistent adherence to a multistep procedure: Failure to properly perform any step, including some necessary manual tasks, could compromise the integrity of the process."
The report also names sharps injuries as a hazard of great concern, and notes, "The number of needlesticks and other sharps injuries that occur each year remains staggering, despite the implementation of safety devices and the emphasis on training over the past 15 to 20 years. Clinicians continue to stick themselves and one another, including when trying to activate needlestick-prevention devices." The report adds, "Most hospitals have ongoing programs to address sharps safety. But these programs may have been established some time ago and may no longer be receiving adequate attention or achieving their expected level of effectiveness. It is easy to become complacent after initial efforts succeed in reducing the frequency of injuries. However, continuing injuries are a signal that additional attention is needed; it could be that clinicians are using poor technique, that the safety devices being used should be replaced with more effective models, or that gaps exist in the facilitys sharps safety program."
The report is accessible at www.ecri.org.