MLH Enhances Medication Safety with Epic-Integrated IV Pumps

Mary Lanning Healthcare (MLH) aims to improve medication safety by integrating its Epic EHR with IV pumps; the interoperability will reduce the risk of user error, the organization said.

Mary Lanning Healthcare (MLH) has teamed up with Epic Systems to enhance medication safety by integrating its Epic EHR with IV pumps. The collaboration aims to eliminate the need for manual programming, reducing the rate of physician errors.

IV pumps pose a risk of incorrect programming when administering intravenous medication. Nurses at MLH previously manually added medication orders from Epic to the pump, which, although infrequent, was a concern for patient safety, said Tammy Burns, MLH pharmacy director.

Research has highlighted major medication safety issues in healthcare, with medication errors comprising more than 30 percent of EHR-related patient harm events in malpractice claims.

A separate report from 2020 found that medical errors caused approximately 98,000 patient deaths and 1,000,000 injuries. Despite the widespread adoption of EHRs over the past decade, alerts still fail to detect up to 33 percent of medication errors, indicating a pressing need for further innovation to enhance patient safety.

The new system implemented at MLH eliminates the risk of incorrectly programmed IV pumps, the organization said.

The system was developed by a team led by Jamie Tinsman, Epic Hospital Clinical Applications Lead, and Burns. Development involved collaboration with Nebraska Medicine, ICU Medical, and Epic, enabling direct communication between IV pumps and the Epic EHR system at MLH.

“The interoperability we have built between the IV pumps and Epic ensures that the exact order that the physician wants given goes directly to the pump without the manual pushing of buttons on the pump,” Tinsman said. “This assures the medications are being given at the right rate and in the right amount.”

The partnership, which commenced in August, facilitated collaboration between organizations to establish the connection and minimize manual errors. The project completely overhauled the IV therapy medication library, a longstanding item on the pharmacy’s wish list.

“The exact record in the drug library will be automatically selected by the pumps,” Burns said. “The library places limits on the low and high ends of the medication dose and rate and ensures those limits are enforced.”

MLH also aims to enhance efficiency for nurses with multiple other responsibilities on the floor.

“We are fortunate in a hospital of our size to have the support from hospital administration to be able to implement such a large safety initiative,” Burns said. “It will probably become the standard of practice in the future but is currently mostly used in larger hospitals than MLH.”

The MLH program is unique in that it uses Epic host sites to connect with Community Connect partners, such as Nebraska Medicine.

“This is a big thing to be able to do in general,” Tinsman said, “let alone being a Community Connect partner and being able to do it.” “Overall, we have had a very successful implementation and are certain we have made yet another improvement towards keeping our patients safe.”

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