How a computerized IV can save lives

The medical devise tracks patients' dosages and is an insurance system against erring doctors and nurses.

Computerized IV 521 (photo credit: courtesy)
Computerized IV 521
(photo credit: courtesy)
You go to the hospital to get better, not to get sicker. Yet hospitals can be dangerous places. What happens, for example, if the doctor or nurse forgets to give you your medication – or, even worse, gives you too much or too little? It’s not an uncommon scenario, says Dr.
Jack Nusbacher – statistics show that medical errors are the fifth leading cause of death and exact a greater toll on human life than motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer or AIDS. The US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that deaths from medical mistakes are growing 1 percent annually. Many patients who suffer from “medical complications,” as they are clinically termed, actually suffer from the consequences of over- or under-dosage. Is this the best modern medicine can do? Absolutely not, says Nusbacher, whose Israeli company, Pro-IV, aims to help doctors, nurses and hospitals be all they can be.
“We offer the only foolproof system that ensures that patients receive the right drug at the right time – with absolutely no chance of error,” he says.
An error-free hospital environment is a tall order, when you think about it. Of course, all hospitals have their SOP – standard operating procedures – and doctors and nurses are trained to work under pressure. But SOPs have a tendency to fall by the wayside as tension rises, and a form of triage often ensues in hospitals, with harried doctors or nurses forgetting to give a dose to a patient – or forgetting to check the other meds they are taking to ensure they don’t prescribe or administer medications that clash.
To err is human, but to prevent human error, says Nusbacher, you need a computerized medical management system – which is exactly what Pro-IV does. The heart of the system is a proprietary valve attached to an IV feed, the typical method of medication delivery in hospitals. The disposable valve is connected to a controller, which regulates IV flow, rate and duration of infusion.
The system is controlled by a handheld device, which checks the patient’s treatment protocol, described in a barcode on the patient’s chart or wrist band. When it’s time for a dose, the handheld device reads the barcode and checks the medication, dosage, timing, and contraindications of the IV in question; it then checks with the controller to ensure that everything is in place.
If everything checks out, the handheld device allows the controller to open the valve, and the IV dose is delivered to the patient’s bloodstream. Otherwise – nothing. In which case an alarm sounds, indicating that the patient is in need of meds that have not yet been administered. Once the patient has received treatment, the incident is added to his hospital record, enabling doctors and nurses to check the record easily.
It’s an insurance system that enables patients to get what they need – not too much and not too little, says Nusbacher, “and far superior to any other management system. There are no other systems available today that are designed to prevent errors in gravity driven infusion systems, which are by far the most widely used approach for intravenous administration of medications.”
Surprisingly, proper flow rates for meds are often not a given in hospitals.
“Often a nurse will set an IV manually, depending on experience, to figure out how much to administer based on the flow rate of the medication into the bloodstream,” he says.
The current medical view is that it doesn’t matter if patients sometimes get a little too much or too little medication, according to Nusbacher, but why take a chance?
“Our mission is to ensure that the right patient receives the right drug in the right dose at the right rate in the right sequence and at the right time,” he asserts.
If there’s anyone who knows about blood and medication dosage, it’s Nusbacher; he is a physician and hematologist, and a former professor of medicine at the Universities of Rochester, Pittsburgh and Toronto. He was also a visiting professor of medicine at Tel Aviv University, and to complete the picture, he is a former national director of the Canadian Red Cross Blood Programme. So he’s clearly the right man for disseminating properly regulated IV administration.
Established in 2006, Pro-IV is currently showing a prototype for the system, officially called IMMAGES (Intravenous Monitoring, Management and Safety) to prospective partners in the United States and Europe.
“I’m a big believer in SOP,” says Nusbacher. “Our system forces the hospital and staff to proceed with the standard operating procedure, and prevents any mistakes that could result from ignoring or forgetting about it. The right patient gets the right drug and dose in the right sequence on the right day.”
With a system like that, the chances are greater that the patient will come out of the hospital all right.