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Rush sues maker of patient monitoring system, says it put safety at risk

Rush University Medical Center spent $18 million on a patient monitoring system that didn't work as promised and put patient safety at risk, the academic medical center is alleging in a lawsuit against the company that made the system.

Rush filed the lawsuit against Pennsylvania-based Draeger Inc., late last week in federal court in Chicago. Rush alleges that it spent $18 million installing the Draeger system between 2012 and early 2016, but the system had major problems.

Draeger said in a statement Tuesday that it "takes this matter seriously, as patient safety is our top priority. … We value our long-standing relationship with Rush University Medical Center and are committed to working through this matter with our customer."

Regarding the allegations, alarms meant to notify nurses and doctors of problems with patients were unreliable and inaccurate, according to the lawsuit.

For example, monitoring for heart arrhythmia in patients with pacemakers was often inaccurate, Rush alleges. The system sent out false alarms that led to alarm fatigue and forced medical staff to spend time reassuring patients, "all of which limited clinicians' ability to respond to truly serious alarms for other patients."

Rush also wanted the system to monitor apnea, or interruptions in breathing, but Rush alleges the system couldn't do that until 2015 and even then was unreliable for certain patients, such as infants and people who were obese.

Also, the system suddenly erased some patient records, according to Rush.

"These (and other) problems endangered patients, severely disrupted Rush's operations, and caused Rush clinical, technical and engineering professionals to waste thousands of hours of time," Rush alleges in the lawsuit. "But rather than effectively remediating these problems, Draeger largely, and inaccurately, blamed them on Rush."

Rush spokesman John Pontarelli said in an email Tuesday that Rush does not comment on pending litigation and that no patients were harmed by the system, "thanks to the efforts of Rush personnel and to extensive expenditure of Rush resources."

Rush alleges that the system should have lasted 10 years, but because of the problems, Rush had to replace it after only five years at a cost of $30 million. Rush seeks to be compensated for the losses it incurred because of the system's problems, according to the lawsuit.

lschencker@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @lschencker

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