3 Negative Effects of Medical Tech We Never Saw Coming

March 31, 2020 • Shannon Flynn

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Often, skeptics sound the alarm bell on technology that may dangerous long before it reaches market. And in healthcare, the long approval process for new medical devices and technology is often enough to catch medtech that may have unintended consequences before it reaches the market.

However, sometimes negative impacts can catch the healthcare field totally by surprise.

Here are THREE negative effects of medical tech that we never saw coming.

1. Over-Reliance on Med Tech

In some cases, new med tech may inspire over-reliance that leads medical professionals to trust medtech over their own skills — even when the tech is wrong.

One story, from hospitalist Robert Wachter, does a great job of illustrating this. A patient, in the hospital after a routine colonoscopy, needed to take one dose of a common antibiotic. However, due to an error, the EHR recommended a much higher dose.

All medical staff involved — physicians, pharmacists and nurses — followed the treatment plan exactly, resulting in the patient taking 38.5 standard doses of the medicine, one pill at a time. The error was only caught when the patient reported serious symptoms — full-body tremors and anxiety — a little while later.

New medtech systems can streamline patient care, saving providers time that they can use in caring for patients. However, if these systems are trusted too much, it can easily lead to an incorrect or dangerous recommendation for treatment being carried out by skilled professionals.

2. Growing Costs

In general, one of the expected benefits of new medtech is that it makes getting healthcare cheaper. Better tests diagnose patients faster, improved surgeries often reduce recovery time and improved therapies can provide quicker improvement in symptoms and patient health. Ideally, this should mean reducing hospital stay time and the costs associated with injury or sickness.

However, new technology sometimes drives up costs, instead. Medical technology has been identified by multiple researchers as a potential cause behind rapidly growing health costs in the U.S., which is one of the biggest spenders in the world on healthcare.

However, medtech in general doesn’t seem to be driving up costs — only specific kinds of technology used in certain ways. As imaging tools — like x-rays and CT scanners — have become more powerful and integrated the latest medtech innovations, they’ve also become more widely used.

Technology that was previously part of a specialized diagnostic process is now often used as a screening tool as increased effectiveness of encourages hospitals to use it more.

Over time, this can easily drive up healthcare costs — however, the benefits of better screening tech, like improved health outcomes, may outweigh the higher levels of spending.

3. Health Data Breaches

One of the biggest pro and con of new medtech is that these devices are often taking advantage of massive amounts of patient data. Better data can provide a variety of benefits for both doctors and patients — but if it’s not properly secured, it can be at risk of theft by hackers and cyber criminals.

While health data may not seem useful to criminals at a first glance, security research shows that it is actually quite valuable to hackers. Stolen healthcare records are regularly sold on the deep web as part of information packages that provide hackers with as much data as possible related to a single identity.

This data is usually then used in other criminal activities — stealing identities or launching further attacks, often using social engineering made possible by the available data.

Unintended Consequences of New Medtech

While medtech can offer a lot of advantages for healthcare workers — faster diagnosis, more effective treatments and better data — all this new technology can also have some serious negative effects. Medtech, in some circumstances, can drive up costs, lead medical professionals to make unusual mistakes and even expose patient data to hackers and cyber criminals.

The healthcare industry’s adoption of new technology isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon. However, medical professionals may need to start considering some of these unintended consequences more seriously.



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