Cybersecurity Threats Named Top Health Technology Hazard for 2018

Posted November 8, 2017

Addressing the Hazards

AAMI and the AAMI Foundation have developed a number of resources to help healthcare delivery organizations address some of these hazards. For example, the AAMI Foundation has released multiple papers and resources about clinical alarm management and infusion therapy safety.

AAMI’s standards program and the Wireless Strategy Task Force are also addressing the risks associated with medical devices and IT networks.


Ransomware and other cyberthreats are the number one health technology safety concern to watch out for in 2018, according to an annual report published by experts at the ECRI Institute. The report, Top 10 Health Technology Hazards for 2018, warned that malware can significantly impact healthcare delivery by rendering health information technology (IT) systems unusable.

“In the healthcare environment, ransomware and other types of malware attacks are more than just an IT nightmare. They are potential patient safety crises that can disrupt healthcare delivery operations, placing patients at risk,” ECRI said in a statement.

Hazard #2: Endoscope Reprocessing

Insufficient endoscope reprocessing remained in the number two spot this year after being listed in eight of the 10 previous editions of the report. According to ECRI, “healthcare facilities continue to struggle with consistently and effectively cleaning, disinfecting, and sterilizing these instruments between uses.”

In its report, the institute focused on two main areas of concern related to endoscope reprocessing. The first being the importance of proper cleaning. “If biologic debris and other foreign material is not cleaned from the endoscope first, residual soil can harden, making subsequent disinfection ineffective,” according to the report.

ECRI also zeroed in on instrument storage after reprocessing, as “moisture trapped in the channels of an endoscope can promote the proliferation of any microbes not eradicated by reprocessing.”

Remaining Hazards

Rounding out the list of health technology hazards were:

  1. Mattresses and covers that could be infected by body fluids and microbiological contaminants, even after cleaning
  2. Missed alarms due to inappropriately configured secondary notification devices and systems
  3. Exposing medical devices and other equipment to incompatible cleaning agents, which could lead to device malfunctions and equipment failures
  4. Electrosurgical unit active-electrode pencils that are not safely holstered between activations, which can cause burns or fires
  5. Inadequate use of digital imaging tools, potentially leading to unnecessary radiation exposure
  6. Workarounds that can negate the safety advantages of bar-coded medication administration systems
  7. Flaws in medical device networking that can lead to delayed or inappropriate care
  8. Slow adoption of safer enteral feeding connectors

“All the items on our list represent problems that can be avoided or risks that can be minimized through the careful management of technologies,” ECRI said.

The topics, which were selected by ECRI engineers, scientists, clinicians, and safety experts, were chosen based on factors such as the severity, frequency, breadth, insidiousness, and profile of the hazard.