Smart tech at Pittsburgh hospital improves patient safety

Pittsburgh's Ohio Valley General Hospital, in an effort to improve patient safety, has implemented an automated system that uses barcoding and "smart" infusion system technology to ensure that patients receive the right intravenous (IV) medication at the appropriate dose and rate.

The technology will also give medical staff immediate access to vital patient information from anywhere in the hospital.This is the first hospital in the United States to use such technology.

William F. Provenzano, FACHE, Ohio Valley's president, says the initiative is an integral part of their Quality Assurance and Risk Management Programs; they are proud of their accomplishments in this area, and are continually exploring ways to enhance the leadership position they hold in patient safety.

According to a health care research company, Avatar International, Inc., Ohio Valley Hospital has been the nation's best community hospital in the category of "Consistently Exceeding Patient Expectations". Ohio Valley's IV Safety System, which replaces traditional paper records, was developed jointly by McKesson Automation Inc., a Pittsburgh-based provider of pharmacy and health care supply automation solutions, and by San Diego-based ALARIS Medical Systems, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cardinal Health, Inc., which develops and markets products for the safe delivery of IV medications.

Registered nurse Peg Spisak, Ohio Valley's director of quality and risk management, says the administration of IV medications poses the greatest risk for harm to patients. Spisak says they are addressing the issue of IV medication errors in a proactive and economically responsible manner, and according to the FDA's recent ruling that barcodes must appear on most prescription drugs and on certain over-the-counter medications, they are 'ahead of the curve.' A study by University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics, has found that implementing barcode scanning technology at the patient's bedside reduced medication errors by 87 percent.

"Those of us in health care are all too familiar with 'death by decimal' stories," adds Spisak. "In those instances, an infusion pump rate was entered as 90 versus 9.0, or a weight-based drug calculation resulted in a person receiving 60 times the intended dose. Clearly, our system goes a long way toward protecting the safety of our patients."

The IV Safety System operates in a three-step process:

  1. Using a hand-held (HH) device with a built-in scanner, the nurse conducts a three-way scan of barcodes:

    a) his or her identification badge;

    b) the patient's wristband;

    c) the IV bag. This confirms that an authorized caregiver is giving the right medication in the right dosage to the right patient.

  2. The nurse uses the same HH device to scan barcodes on the IV system before starting the IV. Patient information is then transferred electronically from the pharmacy to the IV pump.

  3. The nurse presses a few buttons on the pump to start the IV medication. If an error occurs in matching any of the information, the IV system will not activate, and instead will signal the caregiver to review the data.

The system is designed to help verify the "5 Rights" in administering medication to make certain that the right patient receives the right medication in the right prescribed dosage through the right route at the right time.

Ohio Valley uses barcode scanning of IV bags and other doctor-ordered medications to electronically record accurate, up to date information in the patient's medical administration record (MAR).

McKesson Automation and ALARIS Medical Systems market their applications as Connect-IV and IV-RIGHT, respectively. These applications are available to hospitals using the McKesson Admin-Rx barcode medication administration solution with the ALARIS Medication Safety system and its Guardrails Safety Software.

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