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Calvert Memorial Hospital is investing more than $825,000 to fully implement new “smart” intravenous (IV) pumps throughout its facility. The advanced system features many built-in safeguards and provides superior accuracy. Coupled with existing initiatives like bar coding and electronic prescribing, the new technology puts CMH at the forefront of medication safety in the state.

“We have dedicated considerable resources to this new technology because we believe it will be of great benefit to our patients,” said CMH President and CEO Jim Xinis in a press release, “and reassure them they are receiving the best possible care.” A portion of the funding was raised by the hospital’s charitable foundation.

CMH plans to add the new smart IV pumps in the hospital’s infusion therapy center, operating rooms and intensive care unit along with its emergency department and family birth center for use with post-partum patients and mothers in labor.

Last year, CMH scored 96.3 percent for medication safety on an annual survey conducted by the Institute of Safe Medication Practices — surpassing the national average of 71 percent and the statewide median of 77 percent by a wide margin, according to the release.

“We are continually looking at ways to improve our medication safety,” said CMH pharmacist Kara Harrer in the release. “There is no doubt that smart pumps will significantly strengthen those efforts.”

Studies at major medical centers have shown that this new technology has a critical impact in preventing potentially serious IV medication errors. So, what makes the pumps so smart?

According to Harrer, the smart pump’s “brain” consists of customized software that contains a drug library, the release states. This software essentially transforms a conventional IV pump into a computer that sends an alert if an infusion is programmed outside a particular medication’s recommended limits for dose, rate or concentration based on a patient’s age, weight and medical condition.

Going above or below the limit will prompt the machine to sound an alarm, notifying the clinician of the error and how to fix it. “So even if a staff person accidentally presses the wrong button,” she said in the release, “the smart pump lets you know before you administer the medication.”

According to Harrer, the pumps also log data about all such alerts, including the time, date, drug, concentration and programmed rate, thus providing valuable continuous quality improvement information, the release states.

Harrer said the smart pumps have other built-in safeguards that provide an extra layer of protection. “For example, if you have a surgical patient who is on continuous pain medication and his oxygen level drops,” she said in the release, “the smart pump will automatically shut off the medication even before the nurse reaches the patient’s bedside.”

In addition, Harrer said, the pumps are programmed with specific drug dictionaries that ensure the drugs are administered according to best practices, according to the release. They also have free-flow protection — a key safety feature designed to prevent unintentional overdoses of medication or fluid.