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Safe Infusion: How Proper Use of Pump Features Can Promote Patient Well-Being

Safe Infusion: How Proper Use of Pump Features Can Promote Patient Well-Being

IV therapy has been used for decades and is still considered to be the fastest way to deliver medications and fluids to the body, as it yields a bioavailability absorption rate of 100%. However, even though syringe infusion pumps are highly effective, that doesn't mean that they're error-free. Like any other type of medical or hospital equipment, proper procedures must be followed to ensure compliance and alleviate risk.

With the advent of smart pumps, which come equipped with high-tech features that can reduce IV therapy errors, it would seem that both medical staff and patients need not worry as much about potential problems. However, it's more important than ever that we follow manufacturer recommendations and facility policies to the letter. Although we rely on technology to take care of much of the heavy lifting, that doesn't mean we can go on auto-pilot ourselves. If and when we do, we run the risk of bringing harm to the very patients we aim to treat. The safety features of these syringe infusion pumps must be used consistently to reassure the health, safety, and well-being of everyone within a given healthcare facility.

At this point, the majority of American hospitals are using smart pump technology. However, data shows that, even though these pumps are in use, their programmed drug libraries (which are meant to reduce medication errors) may provide a way for medical staff to bypass safety checks. Even though it's entirely possible to pre-check an infusion program before beginning a treatment, pre-check safety features included in these pumps are not utilized consistently. Not using those features increases the risk that a patient receives an incorrect dosage of medication or that the rate of infusion will be wrong. Technically one can bypass pre-checks within a smart pump. They may believe they know better than the machine, or they may be annoyed by the incessant reminder to pre-check. With some pumps, accessing the pre-check feature requires more work or steps that are easy to forget. Whatever the reason, when medical staff chooses to opt-out of the pre-check, that means some patients will not receive the same level of protection as others when receiving infusion therapy.

Hospitals and healthcare facilities must prioritize compliance of pre-check safety feature use. One way to do this is by careful evaluation of possible infusion technology before purchase or rental. If a given pump makes it too easy to bypass this feature or makes the functionality challenging to access, this may result in decreased compliance. Select the types of infusion pumps that support your facility's initiative to improve consistent use of these safety features. Facilities should also strive to make continuous improvements to their smart pump drug libraries, as up-to-date libraries are one of the best ways to ensure patients receive the treatment they need while lowering error risks. It also may be beneficial to establish a safety committee that's dedicated to monitoring, maintaining, and improving the use of infusion pump safety features throughout the facility.

While modern syringe infusion pumps are a mainstay in today's healthcare centers, no technology is foolproof. These pumps are no substitution for our diligence. Our smart tech will only be as smart as we are when we use it -- so policies must be established to ensure patients will continue to receive the highest quality of care.