Smart pumps have the ability to improve neonatal medication safety when compliance with dose error reducing software is high” Melton et al (2019).
BACKGROUND: Smart pumps have been widely adopted but there is limited evidence to understand and support their use in pediatric populations. Our objective was to assess whether smart pumps are effective at reducing medication errors in the neonatal population and determine whether they are a source of alert burden and alert fatigue in an intensive care environment.
METHODS: Using smart pump records, over 370,000 infusion starts for continuously infused medications used in neonates and infants hospitalized in a level IV NICU from 2014 to 2016 were evaluated. Attempts to exceed preset soft and hard maximum limits, percent variance from those limits, and pump alert frequency, patterns and salience were evaluated.
RESULTS: Smart pumps prevented 160 attempts to exceed the hard maximum limit for doses that were as high as 7-29 times the maximum dose and resulted in the reprogramming or cancellation of 2093 infusions after soft maximum alerts. While the overall alert burden from smart pumps for continuous infusions was not high, alerts clustered around specific patients and medications, and a small portion (17%) of infusions generated the majority of alerts. Soft maximum alerts were often overridden (79%), consistent with low alert salience.
CONCLUSIONS: Smart pumps have the ability to improve neonatal medication safety when compliance with dose error reducing software is high. Numerous attempts to administer high doses were intercepted by dosing alerts. Clustered alerts may generate a high alert burden and limit safety benefit by desensitizing providers to alerts. Future efforts should address ways to improve alert salience.
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Melton, K.R., Timmons, K., Walsh, K.E., Meinzen-Derr, J.K. and Kirkendall, E. (2019) Smart pumps improve medication safety but increase alert burden in neonatal care. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making. 19(1), p.213. doi: 10.1186/s12911-019-0945-2.