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Safer drug delivery, better patient care

Safer drug delivery, better patient care

Upgraded infusion pumps have several features that enhance patient safety.

Patients at The Ottawa Hospital are benefitting from safer care with new-generation pumps that deliver drugs intravenously.

The devices, known as infusion pumps, are designed to prevent drug-related mistakes such as overdosing, which are common yet under-reported at most hospitals.

Infusion pumps use software to automatically control both the rate and volume of a medication’s flow. To set a pump for a patient’s needs, a doctor or nurse enters information by using the buttons on a pump’s keypad.

The upgraded pumps have several features that enhance patient safety.

A computerized drug library, which can be uploaded wirelessly, contains up-to-date information on hundreds of drugs. This feature allows each infusion to be automatically checked against the drug library to ensure the dosage is correct.

Since March, when the hospital’s entire fleet of 1,600 pumps was upgraded, more than 9,600 infusions every week have been checked for safe dosages using the drug library. In any given week, the hospital dispenses an average of 10,000 infusions.

The new pumps also warn nurses or doctors when they are about to exceed the maximum allowable dose for a particular drug. As a result, more dosing errors are caught before they impact patients.

“This is what we call a preventive approach to patient safety,” said Rana Chreyh, Director of Biomedical Engineering. “We’re not waiting for something bad to happen first. We are actively catching the near misses that can lead to drug-related errors.”

At least 1.5 million preventable drug-related injuries occurred in 2006 in U.S. hospitals, long-term care homes and outpatient clinics, according to the Institute of Medicine. The institute said 98,000 deaths occurred because of mistakes in administering drugs and because of infections contracted in hospitals. No comparable data are available for Canadian hospitals.


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