Which Smart Pumps Are Smartest? Ratings for Six Large-Volume Infusion Pumps

December 1, 2012 | Evaluations & Guidance


When purchasing large-volume infusion pumps (also known as general-purpose pumps), hospitals seldom need to worry about how well the pumping mechanism works. The basic mechanical performance of these devices has changed very little in recent years. However, that doesn’t mean the technology itself hasn’t evolved, and advances in computing power and an increasing awareness of medication safety have resulted in significant changes in the way infusion pumps are purchased, implemented, and used.

So instead of focusing strongly on mechanical performance, hospitals are concentrating on a host of other issues. For example: How easy is the pump to use? How well does the system’s dose error reduction system (DERS) function? How extensive and configurable is the pump’s drug library? How well does the pump communicate with the pump server—and how easy is it to integrate the pump with other hospital systems, either now or in the future? And what kind of tools are provided to help analyze log data?

In this Evaluation, we examine all those questions and more. We’ve rated the following pumps:

We based our ratings primarily on four factors: drug delivery, communication, log analysis, and ease of use. Each of these factors is described in detail below. For a summary of how the products' performance compares, see the Evaluation at a Glance table.


The CareFusion Alaris and the Hospira Symbiq share many characteristics. For one thing, they have the most comprehensive drug libraries of the devices we tested; these libraries include all of the clinical location configurability we require, as well as features that make secondary infusions safer. Both pumps also provide fully featured log-analysis tools and offer comprehensive log-analysis support services, and both have demonstrated electronic health record (EHR) integration based on the Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) protocols (the Alaris has been integrated with the Cerner EHR, and the Symbiq with both the Cerner and Epic EHRs). We think either pump would be an excellent, if expensive, choice for any hospital.

In addition, the Alaris is the only pump on the market that has limits on custom concentrations, and...

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