Most people admitted to a hospital find themselves overwhelmed by countless anxieties. But for most of us, suffering harm from robots while in the hospital is pretty low on that anxiety list.
Maybe it should be higher.
Many modern hospitals now use robotic drug dispensers to prepare intravenous medications. Naturally, for this to work safely, the robots must operate in a sterile environment.
A recent routine screening at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina, however, found something quite different. During the screening of the robotic drug dispensing machine, the staff was shocked to discover cultures of Bacillus cereus bacteria in the dispenser.
The researchers believe this is the very first time known contamination of these robotic drug dispensers occurred. Fortunately, certain quality assurance measures developed by the robot manufacturer allowed discovery of the contamination before infections resulted.
This is excellent news, because Bacillus bacterial infections can be exceptionally harmful. And in this case, the fact that contamination existed in machinery used to prepare IV serums means the deadly germs could have been pumped directly into the bloodstreams of patients. Pneumonia, sepsis, and other serious conditions could result with exceptional speed.
Research soon revealed the cleaning and sanitization guidelines provided with the robot were insufficient. The tubing and connections to the washing station were not considered part of the sterile section, and therefore no guidelines for their cleaning and maintenance existed.
Many devices exist to simplify health care, but any product that either does not work properly or introduces risks to patients could easily form the basis of a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Dr. Michael M. Wilson is an attorney and a physician who earned his undergraduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his legal and medical degrees from Georgetown University. He has focused in the area of medical malpractice for more than three decades and secured more than $100 million in settlements and verdicts on behalf of clients throughout the country. He is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and New York as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and the U.S. Supreme Court. He is listed in America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators.