Northwestern Memorial researchers release study on smart-pump technology

04/14/05

A research team consisting of nurses, pharmacists and biomedical engineers at Northwestern Memorial Hospital recently published a study showing that while "smart pumps" are a necessary component to a safe medication system, they won't generate meaningful improvements in patient safety until they are interfaced with other systems, such as the electronic health record, computerized provider order entry (CPOE), bar coded medication administration systems and pharmacy information systems. Smart pumps are intravenous (IV) pumps used to administer medication, consisting of software that checks programmed doses against preset limits specific to a drug and clinical location.

"The objectives of the study were to determine the actual types, frequency and severity of medication errors associated with IV pumps, and also determine if errors could have been prevented with the smart pump technology alone," says Marla Husch, RPh, lead author of the study. "We found that by itself the smart pump technology has little potential of improving care and reducing harm but by integrating the smart pump software with other information technology components, hospitals will have checks and balances in place to reduce the number of errors and further increase patient safety."

According to the study, errors occur during each step in the process of providing IV medication to hospital in-patients: prescribing, preparation and administration. An effective error reduction system must include a robust two-way communication so that the physician's order can be verified in real time on the pump, and the pump can inform the hospital's medical record system how much medication the patient has received.

"As Northwestern Memorial completes its rollout of the electronic health record in parallel with CPOE, it's creating a foundation that will enable the integration of smart pumps, bar coding and other technologies as they mature," continues Husch. "As with other advanced information technology systems, Northwestern Memorial will strategically integrate smart pump and other technologies into its other systems in order to closely monitor for new or unexpected problems."

Source: Eurekalert & others

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