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 RAND.org on December 31, 2007

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, Robert H. Brook

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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.

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