“On April 17, 2003, I died.” That year, Matt Whitman, a Michigan state trooper, now retired, was hit by a drunk driver and had to undergo neck surgery. The operation went smoothly, but in the recovery room, a new danger emerged. He was placed on a morphine pump for the pain, but without any electronic monitoring. That night, he stopped breathing—a case of respiratory failure induced by the opioids he was taking. Were it not for a nurse passing by his room to look for an item for another patient, Whitman believes he would be dead. “I heard you take your last breath,” Whitman recalled the nurse telling him. The nurse called a Code Blue, and a team of doctors resuscitated Whitman. When he came to, a priest was holding his hand.
Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky as Whitman, and experiences like his are all too common. According to the National Patient Safety Foundation, one in 10 patients will develop a healthcare-acquired condition during hospitalization. Overall, medical error has been estimated to cause 44,000 to 98,000 deaths in hospitals each year, with recent research suggesting the number could be as high as 440,000 deaths. Patient safety has become a major public health issue, and this week is dedicated to increasing awareness among healthcare professionals and the public.
In recognition of the recent Patient Safety Awareness Week, the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) is shining a light on the crucial and growing role that safe and effective healthcare technology plays in patient outcomes. “Advances in healthcare technology are helping patients in ways we could not have imagined not too long ago. Many hospitals are saving lives by integrating technologies such as continuous electronic monitoring of patients on opioids and smart infusion pumps as tools to support the work of clinicians,” said Marilyn Neder Flack, senior vice president of patient safety initiatives at AAMI and executive director of the AAMI Foundation. “At the same time, it can be a challenge to ensure that healthcare technology is developed and used in the best way possible—always with an eye on clinical workflow and patient safety. The AAMI Foundation is committed to tackling these complex issues through our patient safety initiatives.
Today, under the Foundation umbrella, more than 100 committed individuals are working toward achieving the goal that no patient will be harmed by healthcare technology.” The AAMI Foundation’s initiatives are focused on infusion systems, clinical alarms, continuous monitoring of patients on opioids, and home health infusions. All of AAMI functions with an appreciation for the ultimate goal of advancing patient safety, whether in the form of training webinars for industry professionals, certification options for technicians and specialists, or developing standards for medical devices and healthcare technology.
AAMI president Mary Logan stressed that the association’s mission is to provide global leadership to support the healthcare community in the development, management, and use of safe and effective healthcare technology. “Patient safety is at the heart of everything that we do,” Logan said. “By developing standards, AAMI works to ensure that all medical devices are designed and manufactured with quality, safety, and usability in mind. By educating and certifying the healthcare technology management professionals who implement and service these devices, we help ensure that patients receive the highest quality care. And by bringing all stakeholders to the table when we discuss mutual challenges, we support the goal of finding lasting and comprehensive solutions.” AAMI has a host of resources focusing on specific aspects of healthcare technology. All of these resources can be found at www.aami.org.