by Brendon Nafziger
, DOTmed News Associate Editor | May 31, 2013
From the May 2013 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
The “biggest thorn” in their side
Portability is also essential for a new tool that aims to help biomeds tackle a tricky mainstay of their work: the testing of infusion devices.
“The IV testing that’s happening in the industry, it’s probably the biggest thorn in everybody’s side,” says Greg Alkire, with Pronk Technologies Inc.
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The average 300- or 400-bed hospital has nearly 1,000 pumps that need to be tested once a year, Alkire says. In general, hospitals either test all their IV pumps in one month in a marathon preventive maintenance cram session, or they spread it out over the year, with possibly one person in the biomed shop dedicated to testing pumps every day over 12 months.
Usually, Alkire says, the pumps are schlepped down to the biomed shop, but engineers can be called to spotcheck wonky equipment; and, with the increasing focus on biomeds doing work outside their hospital, having pump testers that are smaller, lighter and more durable has become increasingly important.
“Getting out of their car 10 years ago was miserable because they had heavy pieces of equipment that had to be dragged to an outlying clinic,” Alkire says of biomeds in the past.
The company’s new 5.5-inch-long pump tester, called FlowTrax, launched in wide release in March, though the device has been out in a limited production run of about 60 units since last year. For the one pound device, Pronk, like many other developers, aimed for multi-functionality, in order to further lessen a biomed’s load: FlowTrax is an IV pump analyzer, a full feature pressure meter, a temperature meter and a digital stopwatch.
Alkire says, as with most of their products, they spent the first six months letting a few customers play around with it. Then based on feedback, they made a few tweaks – for instance, customers wanted to capture not only maximum, but minimum pressure. This means now everything from “medair” vents in a patient room down to suction pumps can be tested.
Accuracy and speed were other challenges. Pump analyzers are hard to develop, because the flow pattern varies between different models of infusion pumps, Alkire explains. “So FlowTrax has to be able to take into account ‘pushes’ and ‘pauses’ of fluid that occur during the infusion in order to calculate an accurate flow rate in 3 minutes or less,” he says.
Automation is important, too, for ease of use. The FlowTrax “primes” by itself, meaning it senses when the fluid starts and stops, and tracks flow time automatically, the company says. “It’s smart enough to know when the fluid starts moving and knows when the fluid stops,” Alkire explains.