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IV technology new to the province Smart pumps will improve patient safety


As of late February, RQHR patients will be some of the first to experience technology that pharmacists, nurses, physicians, information technologists and bio-medical engineers from across the province say is the right path to protect the safety of patients and families.

Allison Wells (left), a pharmacist, and Theresa Vall, a clinical nurse educator, are involved in the implementation of a provincial smart pump program. Photo credit: Medical Media Services

“We’re the first Region to implement ‘smart pump technology,’” said Lori Garchinski, Executive Director of the Critical Care, Cardiosciences and Medicine in-patient units in

the RQHR. “This technology will go a long way to improving the quality and safety of the care we provide.”

These pumps are used to deliver intravenous (IV) fluids, mediations and nutrition to patients. They differ from typical infusion pumps in that they are pre-programmed with drug dosing information and are named with the acronym indicating ‘Safer Medication Administration thRough Technology,’ SMART.

“If a clinician, for some reason, programs the pump with the wrong dosing information, the smart pump has built-in safety features that significantly reduce the risk of errors reaching the patient,” Garchinski explains.

Depending on the inputting error, the alarm will sound and the health care provider will be prompted to reassess what was entered.

The pre-programmed nature of this new technology is something Allison Wells welcomes.

“All of a sudden, Logan is screaming, writhing and trying to rip his IV out,” said Wells, the RQHR Pharmacist Co-Lead on the SMART Pump Project. “I looked behind me and saw the bag of potassium and knew immediately it was too concentrated,” she said describing the day her then three-year-old son nearly died.

While being prepared for an in-hospital procedure in 2014, Logan was connected to an IV bag containing more than five times the appropriate concentration of potassium chloride.

Recognizing the situation, Wells locked her son’s IV, stopping the toxic dose from flowing into his body.

“In no more than one minute, concentrated potassium would have stopped his heart,” Wells

If Logan’s IV had been connected to a SMART pump, the near fatal error would not have reached him and he, his family and his health care team would not re-live those events to this day.

The goal is that the built-in safety checks will minimize the likelihood of medication errors. While smart pump technology can help reduce IV medication administration errors and prevent patient injury, they cannot replace the critical judgment and firsthand knowledge of clinicians.

“We relied on pharmacists, nurses and physicians in the province to help define appropriate drug concentrations and develop safe drug limits. This will provide consistency in the province we’ve never had before,” Garchinski said.

“The hard work done here really needs to be celebrated. So many have done so much to make (RQHR) first out of the gate and really leading this amazing safety initiative,” Wells said, who along with Teresa Vall, Clinical Nurse Educator in the Pasqua Hospital Nursing Units, and Garchinski have been instrumental in implementing this technology.