Intravenous Infusion Administration: A Comparative Study of Practices and Errors Between the United States and England and Their Implications for Patient Safety

Ann Blandford, PC Dykes, BD Franklin, Dominic Furniss, Galal Galal-Edeen, KO Schnock, DW Bates
in Drug Saf, Journal article


INTRODUCTION: Intravenous medication administration is widely reported to be error prone. Technologies such as smart pumps have been introduced with a view to reducing these errors. An international comparison could provide evidence of their effectiveness, including consideration of contextual factors such as regulatory systems and local cultures. OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to investigate similarities and differences in practices and error types involving intravenous medication administration in the United States and England, and summarise methodological differences necessary to perform these parallel studies. METHODS: We drew on findings of separate point prevalence studies conducted across hospitals in each country. In these, we compared what was being administered at the time of observation with the prescription and relevant policies, errors were classified by type and severity, and proportions of infusions featuring each error type were calculated. We also reviewed what adaptations to the US protocol were needed for England. Authors independently reviewed findings from both studies and proposed themes for comparison. In online meetings, each country's research team clarified assumptions and explained their findings. RESULTS: Key themes included commonalities and contrasts in methods, findings, practices and policies. Although US sites made greater use of smart infusion devices, and had more precisely defined requirements around infusion device use, patterns of errors were similar. Differences among clinical contexts within each country were as marked as differences across countries. Regulatory and quality control systems shape practices, but causal relationships are complex. CONCLUSION: Infusion administration is a complex adaptive system with multiple interacting agents (professionals, patients, software systems, etc.) that respond in rich ways to their environments; safety depends on complex, interrelated factors.