Jeannine Blake Receives eFellows Award of $75,000-per-year from American Society for Engineering Education

The delivery of intravenous (IV) medication is one of the highest risk interventions in U.S. acute care, with an estimated 500,000 hospitalized patients harmed annually by preventable medication errors. Now, Jeannine Blake, Ph.D., R.N., a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Assistant Professor Juan Jiménez of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department at UMass Amherst, has received a prestigious eFellows award from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE).

NEWS Jeannine Blake
Jeannine Blake

The eFellows program is supporting Blake’s postdoctoral research to improve the safety of IV smart pumps by addressing usability issues and related flow rate inaccuracy, which are currently putting patients at risk for dangerous medication errors.

As a nurse, scientist, and recent Ph.D. graduate from the Elaine Marieb College of Nursing, Blake works closely with the members of the Elaine Marieb Center for Nursing and Engineering Innovation to improve patient outcomes and nursing workflow related to the use of healthcare devices.

The eFellows program, administered by the ASEE with funding provided by the National Science Foundation, awards early-career Ph.D. researchers a university based engineering postdoctoral research fellowship with an annual salary of $75,000 for two years. ASEE will also issue subawards to the host institution to cover benefits and up to $3,000 for travel expenses.

Blake says that “IV smart pumps are widely used to deliver IV medications, yet adverse events associated with their use are among the most frequent sources of medical technology related error reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.”

According to Blake, flow rate inaccuracies in IV smart pumps occur when the actual medication flow rate does not match the rate programmed and displayed on the pump’s user interface. Such errors lead to meaningful risk to patient safety and are difficult to detect at the bedside.

As Blake explains, “Our central hypothesis is that clinically relevant setup practices of IV smart pump systems result in high rates of flow rate inaccuracy and alterations in IV smart pump pressure outputs. We expect these errors can be ameliorated through human factors and engineering design principles.”

One key problem with IV smart pumps, according to Blake’s innovative studies, is that variabilities in IV smart pump setup – such as lengthening tubing, modifying the height of IV bags, adding connectors to tubing, and other practices – can alter pressure within the IV smart pump system and affect flow rates that yield incorrect medication dosing.

One aspect of Blake’s solution to inaccurate medication dosing is to engineer a pioneering IV pole design that will reduce the risk of medication error caused by pump setup.

As an intensive care nurse, Blake cared for many patients whose complex care required multiple concurrent infusions alongside many other high-risk treatments, all of which were managed by her as the nurse. Given the quick acting nature of IV medications, accurate delivery is extremely important for patient safety, and data support that current practices are associated with a high degree of IV medication administration error.

According to the literature, medication errors make up an estimated 78 percent of all medical errors in intensive care, with 20 percent carrying risk of death and 40 percent requiring intervention.

“This postdoctoral fellowship research has the potential to impact the more than 32 to 36 million people who receive intravenous infusions annually in the U.S.,” says Blake.

Blake concludes that “This research can be used to educate frontline clinicians, support the development of real-world solutions to current clinical practices, reduce IV medication administration error, and drive IV smart pump system innovation in this very important area of patient safety.”