MONDAY, March 21, 2022 (HealthDay News) — You’ve probably seen an infusion pump, even though the name might make it sound like a mysterious piece of medical technology.
These devices govern the flow of IV medications and fluids into patients. They help deliver extra fluids to people in the emergency room, administer monoclonal antibodies to folks with COVID-19, and pump chemotherapy drugs to cancer patients.
“If you’re watching a television drama, they are the boxes next to the bedside. Tubing goes from a medication bag through the pump to the patient,” said Erin Sparnon, senior engineering manager for device evaluation at the non-profit health care quality and safety group ECRI.
But the widespread usefulness of these ever-present devices has also made them a top technology hazard for U.S. hospitals, experts say.
Damaged infusion pumps can cause a patient to receive too much or too little medicine, potentially placing the lives of critically ill patients at risk. Plastic can crack, hinges can pinch, electronics can fail, batteries can die — and a patient can be placed in peril.
“There are over a million infusions running in the U.S. every day. The good news about that is the vast majority of them are just fine. The bad news is that a one in a million problem can happen every day,” Sparnon said.
“That’s why infusion pumps get a lot of attention, because they’re ubiquitous. They’re everywhere and they’re used on critical patients for critical medications,” Sparnon said. “We regularly get reports from health care settings where patients have been harmed due to pump damage.”
Damaged infusion pumps placed number three on ECRI’s list of top 10 technology hazards for 2022, mainly due to the potential for something to go mechanically wrong with them, Sparnon said.
But others have raised concerns that “smart” wi-fi-connected infusion pumps could be hacked and manipulated to harm patients.
Still, Sparnon said an infusion pump that’s been manhandled or damaged in some way poses a much greater and more concrete safety risk than the possibility of a hacked pump.
“I know it sounds really cool, but there are no reports of patient harm due to a hack,” Sparnon said. “I would put a lot more emphasis on…