‘Smart pump’ technology helps reduce errors, improve safety

Oakwood Healthcare, Inc. (OHI) took steps recently to increase patient safety, reduce the possibility of harmful drug doses and improve patient care, all at the same time.

The healthcare company has implemented the use of ‘smart’ IV infusion pumps that are equipped with customizable software and wireless technology that will help provide a higher level of care, said Sara Atwell, RN, chief quality and patient safety officer for Oakwood Healthcare.

“When it comes to programming infusion pumps, a missed decimal point or extra zero can sometimes mean the difference between life and death,” said Atwell. “These smart pumps have software with a customizable drug library and drug dose checking features. The smart pumps will alert users of drug doses, dosing units or dosing rates that are outside of pre-established limits—thereby preventing those medication errors.”

Infusion pumps are widely used throughout all hospitals and in virtually all hospital settings. About 90 percent of hospitalized patients receive medication through the use of an IV pump. In the U.S., infusion pumps are involved in between 35 and 60 percent of the 700,000 adverse drug events reported annually.

“They are one of the few devices routinely used with almost every patient in every clinical setting,” said Mary Lynn McKee, RN, who helped implement the program at OHI. “Our patients in all patient settings will benefit from the safety features of these pumps.”

Until recently, nurses and physicians—backed by pharmacists—bore the burden of the complex mathematical conversions of drug doses into fluid flow rates. The smart pumps will eliminate the possibility of any human error and reduce any medication errors, which is particularly important in vulnerable patients such as children, or in areas like oncology and critical care where there is a routine or urgent use of high-alert medications.

The implementation of the program started with a six-month planning phase that included input from multiple departments, including nursing, pharmacy, information technology, biomedical engineering, materials management and nursing education. It also resulted in the development of a system-wide standardization of drug concentrations and dose limits, along with a smart pump policy that led to further standardization of intravenous tubing, supplies and clinical nursing practices.

“Patient safety and excellence in patient care have both been enhanced through implementation of these standardized processes,” said McKee.