Hospira/Bridge Medical deal draws positive reaction

April 18, 2005

The improper programming of an intravenous pump is among the most common mistakes made at the patient's bedside. A decimal point in the wrong place could be catastrophic. But what if a physician's order were electronically transmitted from a point-of-care medication management system directly to the infusion device at the bedside, with a safety check feature that ensures the pump is programmed properly and consistent with the physician's order?

The improper programming of an intravenous pump is among the most common mistakes made at the patient's bedside. A decimal point in the wrong place could be catastrophic. But what if a physician's order were electronically transmitted from a point-of-care medication management system directly to the infusion device at the bedside, with a safety check feature that ensures the pump is programmed properly and consistent with the physician's order?

For years, patient safety experts have warned about gaps in the system that can lead to IV pump programming errors. Now those gaps may be filled, thanks to two software vendors that have joined forces in an effort to thwart IV programming mistakes.

Hospira Inc., an industry leader in medication delivery systems, and Bridge Medical, a leading patient safety software vendor, unveiled plans to develop a medication management system that would link IV devices with bar-code/medication administration verification systems.

The interface between MedNet and MedPoint systems would allow a nurse to use one system, thereby reducing from 14 to four the steps associated with programming an IV pump. Denean Rivera, president of Bridge Medical, said that the new system would take the risk out of the process because it takes the electronic order and programs the pump for the nurse automatically-essentially doing away with manual programming. The system also self-documents to the medication administration record (MAR) in real time. It confirms that the IV was started and documents the dosage amount and time of administration, doing away with the need for postadministration charting.

Barbara Trohimovich, R.Ph., senior manager/clinical development, medication management systems for Hospira, noted that with current IV pump systems, the nurse has to program the IV pump and, depending on the type of medication, enter several parameters, including patient weight, concentration of the medication, patient name, volume to be infused, rate of infusion, and dose. Now that all of that information is transmitted electronically, "the nurse no longer has to manually enter those five or six parameters," she said.

"It's going to be huge," commented Tina Suess, R.N., Bridge system administrator at Lancaster General Hospital in Lancaster, Pa., where the Bridge Medical MedPoint system is already in place. "By the Bridge system knowing what is ordered, already knowing the patient's weight, for example, it can do the calculation, set the pump correctly, and remove the human error of misprogramming the pump." She pointed out that the nurse would still have to start the pump, but if she makes a mistake, any changes on the pump will communicate back to the Bridge system.

"The new system would be a huge advance for the medication use system and error reduction," said Rich Paoletti, R.Ph., director of pharmacy at Lancaster General Hospital. According to Paoletti, the biggest benefit of integrating bedside point-of-care with a smart infusion pump is that it will allow the hospital to focus on an additional level of errors, notably IV infusion errors that ultimately have a greater potential for harm. He added that traditional IV pump programming is cumbersome for the nurse and doesn't provide for a double-check. "Auto-population of the prescribed and verified infusion rates that the pharmacy would profile through the bedside point-of-care system leaves little room for a programming error. It actually asks the nurse for confirmation."

Another potential advantage for pharmacy is that the system would provide pharmacists with real-time data to support best practice guidelines and help them in managing the IV medication management process.

Both companies said that they would adopt an open-architecture approach that would provide interfaces with other vendors' products. However, industry insiders have speculated that the MedPoint/MedNet combo is likely to drive the market toward a bundled solution that favors a Hospira/Bridge combo. The new system is expected to go into beta test this summer, with a commercial release set for the second half of this year.