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Special report: Infusion pumps

by Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | May 29, 2014
From the May 2014 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine


Postsurgical pain is experienced by 80 percent of patients admitted for surgery, according to Frost & Sullivan, a business consulting firm. If the pain is not adequately controlled, it can lead to an increased length of stay or risk of readmission.

“Better management of pain can result in a reduction in the overall readmission rates,” says Shriram Venkataramana, manager of Medtech Insights at MRG. “If the hospitals are within the accepted threshold for readmission rates then they won’t get penalized by CMS.”

According to CMS, the technique is working. They reported 130,000 fewer readmissions from January 2012 to August 2013.

Smart pumps that can be integrated into the EMR can also help hospitals qualify for incentive payments under meaningful use. Part of it involves infusion pumps that are integrated with EMR systems.

In order to get hospitals to use their electronic health record technology to improve patient care, CMS gives out incentive payments through their EHR incentive programs. Providers must prove they are “meaningfully using” their EHR by meeting different objectives, according to the CMS website.

Adverse events, deaths and recalls
Although infusion pumps help hospitals, they have the ability to hurt them as well.

From January 1, 2005 to December 31, 2009, infusion pumps caused more than 56,000 adverse events, 710 deaths and 87 recalls, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That’s more than any other medical technology.

“The FDA released a massive recall and a lot of these companies pulled back a lot of their products,” says MRG’s Venkataramana.

But the medication errors have not been completely resolved because they still persist today. Infusion pump medication errors climbed to number two on ECRI Institute’s Top 10 Health Technology Hazards list for 2013 and 2014.

The problems with the pumps are not isolated to a single manufacturer or type of pump —they’re seen across a broad range. The FDA has concluded that although user error plays some part, the most common problems have been associated with software defects, user interface issues and mechanical or electrical failures.

In the past, the FDA responded to the problems on a case-by-case basis, but it didn’t seem to have much of an effect so they started their Infusion Pump Improvement Initiative in 2010. Through the initiative, the FDA is creating more requirements for infusion pump manufacturers. They are moving to make it a requirement that manufacturers have additional design and engineering information in their premarket submissions and perform more testing to ensure their pumps are safe.

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