Will Automated IV Systems Reduce Hospital Medication Errors?
Hospital in central Pennsylvania is home to what industry experts are heralding as breakthrough technology. In this teaching hospital, the IV systems are computerized and automated, linking pharmacists, doctors, nurses, and patients in unprecedented ways. According to hospital officials this new technology will reduce the number of hospital medication errors patients suffer associated with IVs.Pharmacy Practice News reports intravenous medications are complicated and their effectiveness relies on the diligence of a nurse. Kris O'Shea, one of the hospital's nurses and vice president of patient care services, explained, “The opportunity for error is ever present.” Between administering the wrong drugs, misidentifying patients to receive medications, giving the wrong dosage, and hitting the wrong buttons on the IV machines, IV medication errors are twice as likely to harm patients.The hospital cited a number of other issues with IV medications. Documenting IV administrations and each alteration to the treatment plan is time consuming, taking nurses away from their other duties. Caregivers must carefully track many IV medications, sometimes five or more per patient. Ordering new infusions from the pharmacy can be time consuming, urgent requests and follow up phone calls reduce pharmacy efficiency. Having back up IVs on hospital floors can lead to further mistakes or expired medications.The new system in place at York Hospital is designed to fix most of these problems. Now rather than nurses monitoring solutions and notifying the pharmacy when a new one is needed, a computer system does it. The medication, dose, and rate of infusion is displayed on monitors so doctors, nurses, and pharmacists who are not even on the floor can monitor the progress. This system has reportedly improved productivity, efficiency, and patient safety.York Hospital should be praised for helping improve patient safety. Furthermore, if the system works as well as they say, then it should be implemented in hospitals nationwide. However, it is important to realize that computerized technology safety systems are not perfect. The new system will eliminate many hospital IV errors. However, if it is anything like other technology safety improvements such as electronic prescription systems and automated medical records, computerized IV systems will introduce a whole host of new potential errors that were not anticipated. The key is whether the overall error rate goes down. For that we will just have to wait and see.