The use of infusion pumps that incorporate “smart” technology (smart pumps) can reduce the risks associated with receiving IV therapies. Smart pump technology incorporates safeguards such as a list of high-alert medications, soft and hard dosage limits, and a drug library that can be tailored to specific patient care areas. Its use can help to improve patient safety and to avoid potentially catastrophic harm associated with medication errors. But when one independent community hospital in Massachusetts switched from older mechanical pumps to smart pumps, it neglected to assign an “owner” to oversee the implementation process. One result was that nurses were using the smart pump library for only 37% of all infusions.
To increase pump library usage percentage—thereby reducing the risks associated with infusion and improving patient safety—the hospital undertook a continuous quality improvement project over a four-month period in 2009. With the involvement of direct care nurses, and using quantitative data available from the smart pump software, the nursing quality and pharmacy quality teams identified ways to improve pump and pump library use. A secondary goal was to calculate the hospital's return on investment for the purchase of the smart pumps. Several interventions were developed and, on the first of each month, implemented. By the end of the project, pump library usage had nearly doubled; and the hospital had completely recouped its initial investment.