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Smart infusion pumps may not be infallible

Smart infusion pumps are used in health care settings to deliver medications, nutrients, fluids and other substances into a patient's body mechanically. The pumps are sophisticated, and they're designed to reduce the number of accidents or injuries as a result of mistakes. Error-reduction software is in place to help health care providers program and calculate the doses given to patients. On the whole, using these pumps helps prevent IV errors, so fewer patients are hurt.

Pumps aren't infallible, so there's always a risk of error. Clinicians still need to monitor patients vigilantly and practice the five rights. These rights including having the right drug, the right patient, the right route of delivery, the right time between doses and the right dosage.

Physicians also need to understand the drug libraries they're able to use. The pump system can suggest medications from its preloaded list, but it's still up to the doctor or nurse to choose the correct values. Some facilities use electronic medical records and bar code scanners to help prevent IV medication errors when using smart infusion devices.

Even though there are many checks and balances, problems can still arise. There have been reports of incorrect doses being programmed and soft limits being overridden. To prevent these errors, many facilities implement hard limits, which are limits on drug dosages that can't be exceeded per patient.

As a patient, you have the right to know what kinds of machines are being used to deliver your medications and should be informed if errors are made. With smart pumps, if you've suffered because of an error, you may be able to file a malpractice lawsuit.

Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, ""Smart" Infusion Pumps are Selectively Intelligent," Kathleen Cummings and Ryan McGowan, accessed Oct. 06, 2016

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