Northwestern Memorial researchers have published a study demonstrating that "smart" IV pumps do not improve patient safety on their own. You can find the actual study here.

"The objectives of the study were to determine the actual types, frequency and severity of medication errors associated with IV pumps, and also determine if errors could have been prevented with the smart pump technology alone," says Marla Husch, RPh, lead author of the study. "We found that by itself the smart pump technology has little potential of improving care and reducing harm but by integrating the smart pump software with other information technology components, hospitals will have checks and balances in place to reduce the number of errors and further increase patient safety."

This could be a classic case of making lemonade out of lemons: a hospital adopts new technology based on expected benefits, when the expected benefits are not realized they figure out why and publish the results. This outcome is certainly a win for the industry, if not for Northwestern Memorial.

I've posted on smart pumps before, with write ups on Alaris, Baxter, and Hospira. There was also a similar study published last month that faulted workflow surrounding the use of smart pumps as being critical to realizing real improvements in patient safety.

Ironically, Northwestern Memorial is the same hospital that did a study looking at the risk of infection from rapidly proliferating computer keyboards found in clinical areas. Infection control and risk management folks should check it out.