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Beyond the pump — Interoperable infusion systems

May 31, 2019
Infusion Pumps
From the May 2019 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

By Juuso Leinonen

Infusion pumps are among the most numerous medical devices found in any healthcare facility.
Many organizations manage up to thousands of these individual devices, which are used in a range of clinical settings from an emergency department to an outpatient chemotherapy unit. Infusion pumps are used to deliver most intravenous medications, including IV maintenance fluids, hazardous drugs, and even life-sustaining medications.

Due to the potential for medication errors and patient harm, a number of safety features, including the Dose Error Reduction System (DERS), have been designed to help prevent most use-related errors with infusion pumps. However, these systems have been known to fail if not appropriately used or configured. A simple pump programming error on a critical infusion could lead to patient harm or even death; a scenario still seen too often.

The next generation of infusion safety technology is also on the horizon, with the increased adoption of pump integration. But while advances in infusion pump technology have been shown to improve safety and ease clinician workflow, a number of pump problems still remain prevalent.

Infusion errors remain a top health technology hazard
ECRI Institute has featured infusion pump-related problems on its Top 10 health technology hazards list nearly every year since the list's inception. While safety advancements have significantly reduced the risk of harm, infusion-related hazards nevertheless remain a key patient safety issue. The nonprofit organization issues its Top 10 list each year to help healthcare facilities identify such issues; the list helps facilities prioritize their technology safety efforts, and it offers actionable recommendations to help facilities implement solutions.

Past editions of ECRI Institute's list have included topics such as IV line mix-ups, pump programming-related errors, and malfunctions due to improper use of cleaning chemicals. Most notably, infusion-related errors topped the list in 2017 with "Infusion Errors Can Be Deadly If Simple Safety Steps Are Overlooked." That article reminded clinicians of the importance of some low-tech safety features and common infusion safety best practices. Specifically, applying the roller clamp as appropriate to stop flow and observing the flow status through the administration set drip chamber are still the primary methods to prevent and detect unintended flow of medication.

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