Checking infusion pumps by telephone

Eliminate unnecessary nursing visits

A physician just called your office. One of his patient’s you’re treating for pain management needs his dosage adjusted right away. It just so happens you’re short staffed today, and the patient in question is nearly an hour’s drive away.

San Diego-based I-Flow Corporation says its Voicelink System is the answer to your problem. Using Voicelink, you and your staff can program, re-program, and even troubleshoot an infusion pump using a touch-tone phone.

Barbara Lorenzen, the director of marketing for I-Flow, says Voicelink was a bit ahead of it’s time when was first introduced two years ago. However, as telemedicine has gradually become more accepted, Lorenzen feels the Voicelink System’s time has finally come.

"Our new marketing strategy for the system is we really sell Voicelink as the lead product, and the Verifuse pump can be included," she says. "So the ability to take care of the patient and monitor the pump is the leading force here, and people now are more likely to listen."

Numerous benefits

Not everyone is hearing of Voicelink for the first time. Debbie Holman, RN, the director of home infusion services for Genesys Medical Equipment Services Home Infusion in Flint, MI, has been using the Voicelink System since its introduction. The agency now has 44 Verifuse pumps and seven Voicelinks.

Genesys provides a wide range of infusion services, from antibiotics, pain management, and total parenteral nutrition (TPN) to chemotherapy and blood products. Lorenzen notes that the pump was the first multiple-mode therapy pump to hit the market and can provide patient- controlled analgesia (PCA), TPN, and both continuous and intermittent therapy.

Holman notes that the pumps have just one setback.

"The only real limitation we run into is when we’re working with newborns," she says. "Because of the prime volume of the tubing and the limited amount of volume we can use with neonates, it makes it difficult to use with that type of patient."

But the real story is the Voicelink. Each of the seven systems owned by Genesys is devoted to one patient, although that doesn’t have to be the case, depending on your client base.

"I know of places that are using one Voicelink with multiple pumps for settings such as nursing homes," says Holman. "You can put the Voicelink in whatever room you need to use or bring the pumps to the Voicelink."

Holman says the Voicelinks are most helpful for pain management patients, who typically require frequent changing of their infusion. Reducing extra trips just to push a couple of buttons was critical for Genesys.

"Part of our service area is rural," notes Holman. "We’ve had patients 90 miles away, so the nurse would have to drive an hour and a half."

Holman notes that in such situations, patients benefit as much as the agency.

"We had a patient who was on the very outskirts of our service area," she says. "The doctor’s office called and asked us to reset his machine because he was in a lot of pain. In five minutes we reprogrammed the pump, and it saved three hours of a nurse’s time, plus the patient waited just five minutes rather than an hour and a half for the nurse to get there."

Holman notes that an agency involved in managed care/capitated contracts would benefit most from the pump for obvious reasons.

"You have to look for ways to provide service with as few nursing visits as possible," she says. "This will help these full-service providers better manage their patients. If you visited a pain management patient in the morning, and the doctor’s office calls at 2:00 in the afternoon, you don’t want to have to make another trip."

Holman says Voicelink is extremely easy to use and is no different from using voice-mail.

For home infusion patients, Voicelink stays with the patient in the home. To access the pump, you simply dial into the Voicelink System and listen to the voice prompts. From there, you can change the rate of infusion, check what the pump has done over an extended period of time, or download information into a compliance report.

Holman notes that the pump is just as easy to use by hand as over the phone, thanks to its bar code scanner.

At Genesys, the pharmacy prints out bar codes for the Verifuse pumps with each order, whether for a first infusion for a patient or a change in the order. The bar code is then placed with the bag of medication. When the nurse arrives at the home, she simply slides the bar code along a scanner on the side of the pump.

"You scan the bar code into the pump, and that programs your pump," says Holman. "So nurses don’t have to remember what buttons to push. It is the only pump out there that is programmed using bar codes."

[Editor’s note: The cost of both the pump and Voicelink system is $2,495. Each can be purchased separately, with the pump costing $2,400 and Voicelink $1,450. Software for the bar code scanner is included in the pump’s price. Voicelink is compatible only with the Verifuse pump. For more information, contact I-Flow at (800) 944-1501.]