Connecting EMRs and Smart Pumps Proving Difficult

Posted on May 10, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or

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?)