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You go to the hospital to get better, not to get sicker. Yet hospitals can be dangerous places. What happens, for example, if the doctor or nurse forgets to give you your medication- or, even worse, gives you too much or too little?

It’s a not uncommon scenario, says Dr. Jack Nusbacher of Israel’s Pro-IV – statistics show that medical errors are the fifth leading cause of death and exact a greater toll on human life than motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer or AIDS. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates the deaths from medical mistakes are growing 1% annually. Many patients who suffer from “medical complications,” as they are clinically termed, actually suffer from the consequences of over- or under-dosage. Is this the best modern medicine can do?

Absolutely not, says Nusbacher – and his company’s technology can help doctors, nurses and hospitals be all they can be. “We offer the only foolproof system that ensures that patients receive the right drug at the right time – with absolutely no chance of error.”

An error-free hospital environment is a tall order, when you think about it. Of course all hospitals have their SOP – standard operating procedures. And doctors and nurses are trained to work in a pressure environment. But SOPs have a tendency to go by the wayside as tension and pressure rises. Of course, mistakes are never intentional; everyone does their best to keep to the SOP. But as the atmosphere gets more intense, a form of triage often ensues in hospitals, with harried doctors or nurses forgetting to give a dose to a patient – or forgetting to check the other meds they are taking to ensure that they do not prescribe or give medications that clash.

To err is human, but to prevent human error, says Nusbacher, you need a computerized medical management system – which is exactly what Pro-IV does. The heart of the system is a proprietary valve which is attached to an IV feed, the typical method of medication delivery in hospitals. The disposable valve is connected to a controller, which acts as a regulator and flow monitor and which regulates IV flow, rate and duration of infusion.

The system is controlled by a handheld device, which checks the patient’s treatment protocol, described in a barcode on the patient’s chart or wrist band. When it’s time for a dose, the handheld device reads the barcode, and checks the medication, dosage, timing, and contraindications of the IV in question; it then checks with the controller to ensure that everything is in place.

If everything checks out, the handheld device allows the controller to open the valve – and the IV dose is delivered to the patient’s bloodstream. Otherwise – nothing. In which case an alarm sounds, indicating that the patient is in need of meds that have not yet been administered. Once the patient has received treatment, the incident is recorded on their hospital record, enabling doctors and nurses to easily check the record.

It’s an insurance system to ensure that patients get what they need – not too much and not too little, says Nusbacher, “and far superior to any other management system. There are no other systems available today that are designed to prevent errors in gravity-driven infusion systems, which are by far the most widely-used approach for intravenous administration of medications.” Surprisingly, proper flow rates for meds are often not a given in hospitals – not at all. “Often a nurse will set an IV manually, depending on experience to figure out how much to administer, based on the flow rate of the medication into the bloodstream.” The current medical view is that it doesn’t matter if patients sometimes get a little too much or too little medication, says Nusbacher, but why take a chance? “Our mission is ensure that the right patient receives the right drug in the right dose at the right rate in the right sequence and at the right time.”

If there’s anyone who knows about blood and medication dosage, it’s Nusbacher; he is a physician and hematologist, and a former professor of medicine at the Universities of Rochester, Pittsburgh, and Toronto. He was also a visiting professor of medicine at Tel Aviv University, and, to complete the picture, he is also a former national director of the Canadian Red Cross Blood Programme. So, he’s clearly the right man for the job of disseminating the gospel of properly regulated IV administration.

Established in 2006, Pro – IV is is currently showing a prototype for the system, officially called IMMAGES (for Intravenous Monitoring, Management and Safety) to prospective partners in the United States and Europe. “I’m a big believer in SOP,” says Nusbacher. “Our system forces the hospital and staff to proceed with the standard operating procedure, and prevents any mistakes that could result from ignoring or forgetting about it. The right patient gets the right drug and dose in the right sequence on the right day.” With a system like that, the chances are greater that the patient will come out of the hospital “all right.”

 

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