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New IV Pumps Reduce Patient Medication Errors

Hospital news | Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Contact: Mardi Ford

The Institute of Medicine has identified medication errors as a major threat to patient safety. According to a report issued in 2006 by the Institute, medication errors harm 1.5 million people and kill several thousand patients each year in the United States.
Many of these errors occur outside of hospitals and with oral medications, but accidents can occur in hospitals, as well, when administering IV (intravenous) therapy with conventional pumps. Intravenous bags contain important medications in liquid form that are administered into the veins of patients. The medications can range from antibiotics to painkillers. Ensuring that patients are given the correct medication dose at the correct drip rate is the challenge for nurses, as well as managing combinations of drugs to avoid contraindications.
Fortunately for patients at Grande Ronde Hospital, improving the safety of using IV medications just became easier with the hospital’s implementation of 39 high-tech IV pumps that help safeguard patients against potentially life-threatening medication mistakes.
Called “smart pumps” the new technology will greatly reduce the potential of someone accidentally keying in the wrong dose, says Mike Dempsey, pharmacy manager at Grande Ronde Hospital
The new IV pumps are like a built in safety-net with computerized memory functions that allow the pharmacy staff to build drug libraries with programmed dosage limits and infusion rates. The system alerts nurses if wrong doses are ordered or if wrong buttons are pushed.
“As a nurse it makes you feel safer,” says Robin Mitchell, medical surgery nurse manager. She expected the switch to the new IV pumps to be more challenging, and has been pleasantly surprised. “They are very easy to use and we’ve had lots of education,” she says. The technology is amazing. It’s hard to make a mistake. They’re awesome,” she says.
Grande Ronde Hospital is one of approximately six percent of the nation’s hospitals using this new drug computer-entry system technology and the only hospital in Northeast Oregon to have invested in the sophisticated Alaris Guardrails System.
The Grande Ronde Hospital Foundation helped to fund the project through a grant from the Oregon Office of Rural Health.
We are always looking for ways to support and improve patient care,” says Meredith Lair, the Foundation development specialist. “This project will benefit many since approximately 90 percent of our patients are placed on an IV pump at some point during their hospital stay.”