Programmable Infusion Pumps in ICUs

An Analysis of Corresponding Adverse Drug Events

Published in: Journal of General Internal Medicine, v. 23, Suppl. 1, Jan. 2008, p. 41-45

Posted on on January 01, 2008

by Teryl K. Nuckols, Anthony G. Bower, Susan M. Paddock, Lee H. Hilborne, Peggy Wallace, Jeffrey M. Rothschild, Anne Reid Griffin, Rollin J. Fairbanks, Beverly Carlson, Robert J. Panzer, et al.

Read More

Access further information on this document at

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

BACKGROUND: Patients in intensive care units (ICUs) frequently experience adverse drug events involving intravenous medications (IV-ADEs), which are often preventable. OBJECTIVES: To determine how frequently preventable IV-ADEs in ICUs match the safety features of a programmable infusion pump with safety software (smart pump) and to suggest potential improvements in smart-pump design. DESIGN: Using retrospective medical-record review, we examined preventable IV-ADEs in ICUs before and after 2 hospitals replaced conventional pumps with smart pumps. The smart pumps alerted users when programmed to deliver duplicate infusions or continuous-infusion doses outside hospital-defined ranges. PARTICIPANTS: 4,604 critically ill adults at 1 academic and 1 nonacademic hospital. MEASUREMENTS: Preventable IV-ADEs matching smart-pump features and errors involved in preventable IV-ADEs. RESULTS: Of 100 preventable IV-ADEs identified, 4 involved errors matching smart-pump features. Two occurred before and 2 after smart-pump implementation. Overall, 29% of preventable IV-ADEs involved overdoses; 37%, failures to monitor for potential problems; and 45%, failures to intervene when problems appeared. Error descriptions suggested that expanding smart pumps' capabilities might enable them to prevent more IV-ADEs. CONCLUSION: The smart pumps the authors evaluated are unlikely to reduce preventable IV-ADEs in ICUs because they address only 4% of them. Expanding smart-pump capabilities might prevent more IV-ADEs.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.