Rush UMC sues Draeger for more than $18 million over patient monitoring system

By Mike Miliard
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Chicago's Rush University Medical Center has filed a lawsuit against Draeger, charging that the patient monitoring system it spent four years and $18 million trying to make work has failed to live up to promises and expectations.
 
Draeger's Infinity Acute Care System exacerbated alert fatigue for physicians and nurses, "caused Rush clinical, technical and engineering professionals to waste thousands of hours of time" attempting to fix its problems – and ultimately put patient safety at risk, according the complaint, filed this past week in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
 
Rush contracted for Draeger's Infinity Acute Care System, which officials claim was purchased at Draeger's suggestion, instead of the Infinity Omega system that had been first discussed during the RFP process, in mid-2011.
 
The system was rolled out in stages between January 2012 and January 2016, at a total cost exceeding $18 million, But "failed to operate as promised and warranted," according to the lawsuit.
 
IACS has four components, meant to be networked with each other: bedside patient monitors; larger monitors, showing bedside data, placed at central nursing stations; smaller monitors with rechargeable batteries that could be docked to the hospital's wired network or run wirelessly during patient transport, and wireless wearable devices to monitor ECG and pulse oximetry data.
 
Draeger said the system "had the capability to provide full wired-to-wireless monitoring, meaning the system could continuously monitor a patient who was taken off of a bedside monitor and placed on a portable, battery-operated monitor during transport," according to the suit. "These representations were made after Rush had provided Draeger with detailed specifications of its wireless network."
 
Rush was told that its wireless network "was well-designed and provided ample access points for the Draeger System's wired-to-wireless capabilities," the complaint continues. Executives from the company also said Draeger's technology "could be configured by Rush to provide accurate and clinically useful patient monitoring and alarming."
 
Instead, the hospital said it spent the next several years grappling with "inaccurate and unreliable alarming, erratic shifts in alarm settings, and sudden erasures of patient log data." IACS also didn't deliver on "promised features, including wired-to-wireless monitoring (required for patient transport) and monitoring for de-saturation of neo-natal patients’ blood oxygen," according to the lawsuit.
 
There were also many problems related to pacemaker monitoring for heart arrhythmia, according to Rush, with frequent inaccuracies and false alarms. Those alerts caused substantial hassle for nurses who had to spend substantial time in response, reassuring frightened patients and providing "one-on-one care to manage patient monitors, all of which limited clinicians’ ability to respond to truly serious alarms for other patients."
 
Those and other challenges "endangered patients, severely disrupted Rush’s operations," and required clinical and IT staff to redirect their energies from other tasks for troubleshooting of the system.
 
"Rather than effectively remediating these problems, Draeger largely, and inaccurately, blamed them on Rush," hospital officials said. "A Draeger software upgrade was insufficient and created new problems. Upgrading was also extraordinarily time-consuming  and disruptive, despite Draeger’s promises that upgrades could be easily pushed out across the network."
 
By late 2016, Rush decided it was time to move on to a new vendor, despite the fact that patient monitoring systems typically work for at least 10 years from installation, officials said.
 
The medical center is seeking compensation for losses it has incurred trying to make the system work. The suit also alleges that Draeger breached at least two warranties in its contract with Rush, and is in violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

In a press statement statement this week, Draeger said it "takes this matter seriously, as patient safety is our top priority," according to the Chicago Tribune. "We value our long-standing relationship with Rush University Medical Center and are committed to working through this matter with our customer."