Thousands of patients are benefitting from new smart pump technology

December 30, 2016

If you’re ever admitted to a hospital, there’s a 90 per cent chance you’ll need intravenous therapy to receive fluids, nutrients or medications. In Saskatchewan, this means about 2,200 people are getting intravenous therapy through a bedside infusion pump every single day.

Intravenous infusion is a highly effective therapy, but it’s not without risks. If a pump isn’t programmed correctly, patients can get the wrong dose of medication. This can result in serious harm.

That’s why the Saskatchewan health system replaced thousands of old bedside pumps this year with new, state-of-the-art smart infusion pumps. By making the switch, the system is significantly improving patients’ safety and saving millions of dollars in the process.

Smart pumps are safer than the pumps they’ve replaced because they work in conjunction with a province-wide database of standardized drug dosing information, known as the provincial drug library. It’s the first of its kind anywhere in Canada.

If a care provider unintentionally programs a smart pump to deliver a medication that’s outside safe dosing limits established in the provincial drug library, the smart pump won’t dispense at the rate that was entered. Instead, the smart pump will sound an alert so the healthcare provider can check the dose and fix the error. It’s all about reducing the potential for harm.

More than 3,300 pumps were successfully implemented in the province between March and December 2016. The smart pumps, along with the provincial drug library help support care providers at the patient’s bedside and dramatically improve safety for patients because of the medication dosing errors they catch. Preventing medication errors is vital to improving outcomes for patients.

A small army of dedicated healthcare professionals

None of this work could have happened – whether it was the monumental task of building the provincial drug library, training over 7,000 healthcare practitioners on the new smart pumps, or completing the back-end technical work to get the technology up and running – if it wasn’t for the thousands of healthcare providers from across the system who came together and collaborated like they did.

“A high functioning team worked tirelessly with Hospira, the smart pumps vendor, to build the provincial drug library and roll out thousands of smart pumps to every region and the cancer agency,” said Susie Hilton, the project’s provincial lead. “Input from nurses, pharmacists and information technologists, clinical engineers, supply chain managers and regional leadership was essential to ensuring the technology would meet clinical needs for delivering high quality patient care.”

Smart pumps were also rolled out to Saskatchewan Polytechnic and the University of Saskatchewan so students studying to become healthcare practitioners can learn how to use the devices while they are still in school. This helps them transition more seamlessly from the classroom to a clinical setting once they graduate. Smart pumps also allow emergency medical services personnel across the province to be consistent with hospital-based intravenous practices.

The most recent organizations to go-live with the new smart pump technology were the Saskatoon Health Region and Cancer Agency (in November), followed by Kelsey Trail Health Region and Athabasca Health Authority (pictured right) on Nov. 14. Prince Albert Parkland was the last region to implement the pumps on Nov. 28, meeting the province’s contractual obligations to have all regions using the new devices by Dec. 31, 2016.

More than 350 people from across the healthcare system worked on this project making it a successful provincial initiative.

The program team at Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region will begin administering the service on behalf of all stakeholders across the system beginning in January 2017.

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