Consolidation and the Need for Broader Use of Medical Devices Across the Continuum of Care

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By Shy Shyman

A camera, pager, and a mobile phone.

These devices each had singular objectives when they were first invented: to capture real-life images; to send text messages; and to wirelessly make phone calls. As modern technology progresses, it continuously increases its threshold, making way for multiple single-application devices to be combined on a single platform. This is exemplified today as Apple, Samsung, LG and others have used the most advanced technologies to create one all-purpose device – the smartphone. 

This concept has also taken hold in the medical industry, with consolidation of technologies into advanced, high-performance medical equipment. One such example of this is the infusion pump. Through device consolidation, one single infusion pump can be used more extensively across the spectrum of care, providing broader capabilities at a lower cost.

Infusion Pumps Today

Currently, the infusion pump industry is split between the hospital and the ambulatory markets, each with their own separate infusion devices and needs. In hospitals, the gamut of infusion pumps is large, as their readiness for every situation is pivotal in providing sufficient care for patients. Medium-sized hospitals, ranging from 100 to 500 beds, use syringe pumps, large volume pumps, PCA pumps and enteral pumps to meet their infusion needs. Larger hospitals, with 500+ beds, use the same equipment, but with a broader range of capabilities, including the ability to connect and document patient vitals directly into the patient’s electronic health record.

Ambulatory pumps are smaller and more mobile than their hospital counterparts. While their primary functions are the same, homecare pumps typically lack broader functionality, with lower performance capabilities and more disposable parts than the larger hospital pumps. Even though they are also often used in hospitals, they are primarily utilized in other settings, including clinical offices and the home.

Current Infusion Pump Drawbacks

There are various issues that arise when multiple infusion pump types with different functions and purposes are made available in the market. Even within one hospital, healthcare professionals may encounter a wide range of pumps, all with different interfaces. Doctors and nurses require training for each individual pump interface, as it is crucial for them to know the ins and outs of these devices to provide proper care. 

Per standard procedure, infusion systems receive software updates regularly, leading to the need for additional training. The combination of multiple devices and software updates results in hospitals with hundreds or even thousands of health staff undergoing a never-ending training and retraining cycle. This is a drain on resources and also takes time away from staff caring for patients. 

From a managerial perspective, maintaining inventory and pump upkeep is a logistical nightmare. Each pump has its own lifecycle and comes with pump model specific servicing protocols. Servicing protocols and procedures can be extensive, time consuming and difficult to maneuver. Additionally, modern pumps in need of repair are not fixable in-house and require the manufacturers to either repair or replace the problem pump. 

Consolidation leads to improved performance and outcomes

Although difficult to achieve, the ideal solution for these issues is to consolidate PCA pumps, epidural pumps, syringe pumps, large volume pumps and others into one all-encompassing device. By merging hospital and ambulatory pumps into one universal pump, device usability will improve across the spectrum of care. An all-inclusive pump translates into one interface for all health staff to familiarize themselves with, in and out of the hospital setting. This means that nurses that work in the hospital and in the home need only be trained once to learn how to handle the device, and will only require additional training with the periodic software update. Less training reduces expenses for employers and gives health staff more time to be with their patients.

From an interoperability perspective, a universal pump only requires one software system to manage it. This creates one standard operating system that all care providers can incorporate into their current workflows to properly manage pump fleets. Having a standard system also resolves the pump servicing fiasco, resulting in all pump handlers using one service provider portal for pump fixing needs.

Consolidation within the infusion pump industry will not only improve productivity and fleet maintenance at a reduced cost. By creating these workflow efficiencies, healthcare professionals can spend less time on mechanical tasks, focus more on patient care, leading to improved patient experiences in the hospital and the home.

Shy Shyman is VP R&D Eitan Group.

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