Connecting EMRs and Smart Pumps Proving Difficult

As they settle into their implementation, hospitals are hoping to connect key medical devices to their EMRs. But vanishingly few have pulled off connecting one important device, the smart infusion pump, according to recent research by KLAS.

KLAS’s new study surveyed 251 providers from 218 organizations.  Researchers concluded that less than 10 providers in the country are tying smart pumps to their EMRs, despite the fact that most providers see such connections as an important safety measure.  The smart pumps let clinicians know if the pumps aren’t set to match a facility’s guidelines, while standard pumps are programmed by hand.

More than half of providers told KLAS that EMR integration is a key factor in selecting future pumps, the firm says.  And they handed out higher satisfaction ratings to vendors whose technology development is moving along. Smart pump vendors Baxter, Carefusion and Hospira, for example, led in wireless technology.

That hospitals are demanding wireless pumps that connect with EMRs is no big surprise. Far too many — 23 percent — of surveyed provider organizations reported serious medication incidents within the previous 24 months.  Sixty percent of the serious errors were made while using drug libraries.  Clearly, using the libraries is good, but connecting to an EMR with auto-programming could  make a difference.

Given the difference EMR-connected pumps could make, why are so few providers already connected?  Well, one obvious issue is that only 60 percent of providers are live on wireless pump technology, which is necessary to get the integration done.

It’s not just the pump that’s an issue, however. When hospitals roll out this approach, it requires a great deal of coordination between IT, EMR users, clinical analysts and more, notes Kristen O’Shea, clinical transformation officer for WellSpan Health, who spoke with InformationWeek magazine about her organization’s smart-pump rollout.

To make sure the team worked together smoothly with the new device connections, WellSpan created a new hybrid biomedical/IT position to manage medical device connectivity. (Smart move — maybe more would be getting done in the EMR/device connection realm if they did more hiring of this kind?)

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.


  • I know someone who spends 2 days a month getting infusions. The pumps are so bad and so mis-used that it tempts one to not use them. They constantly stop. Alarms seem nearly non-stop. But the biggest problem by far is that every single person operating them comes up with their own idea of the settings. One goes fast, one slow. No one reads the instructions (carefully at least) and programs the pump appropriately and then adjusts it as needed as per conditions (also in the notes).

    With a pump connected to an EHR, the pump could receive its instructions from the doctor. Any exceptions could be recorded to the EHR. And when a problem comes up with the pump in a hospital room, the nursing station could be notified (and the problem recorded) instead of loud alarms only heard by patients who then can’t get any sleep.

    To me, this represents a huge potential improvement in patient care and comfort.

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