Rush University Medical Center sues vendor over $18M patient monitoring system that compromised safety

A close-up photo of a vital signs monitor
Rush claims Draeger failed to fix failures in its patient monitoring system that compromised safety. (Getty/boggy22)

This article has been updated to include comment from Draeger. 

Rush University Medical Center has sued the manufacturer of a patient monitoring system to recoup at least $48 million the hospital says it spent purchasing and then replacing faulty software because it endangered patient care.

In a complaint (PDF) filed at a Northern Illinois district court on Friday, Rush alleged Draeger, Inc. failed to operate its patient monitoring system as promised. In 2011, the hospital spent $18 million on the system designed to monitor patients’ physiological conditions like breathing and vital signs.

But Rush said it quickly encountered issues with the technology, including “inaccurate and unreliable alarming, erratic shifts in alarm settings and sudden erasures of patient log data.” The hospital also highlighted specific shortcomings, like the system's inability to provide wireless monitoring as originally promised by Draeger.

Rush cited several other failures with potentially serious implications for patient care. At times, the system failed to capture respirations for intubated and nonintubated patients, forcing Rush to spend more than $400,000 on new equipment. Despite assurances from Draeger that the system could identify respiration stoppages for patients on opioids, that capability was unavailable until four years after Rush purchased the system.

Rather than fixing the problems, Draeger shifted the blame back to the medical center, the Chicago-based hospital claims.

Those technical disruptions “severely disrupted Rush’s operations and caused Rush clinical, technical and engineering professionals to waste thousands of hours of time,” according to the complaint. Last year, Rush decided to replace the system out of concerns for patient safety, which added an estimated $30 million in costs.

"We generally do not comment on pending litigation, but it is important to note that while there were risks posed due to the problems, no patients were harmed, thanks to the efforts of Rush personnel and to extensive expenditure of Rush resources," Rush spokesperson John Pontarelli said in an email to FierceHealthcare. 

Accusing Draeger of breach of contract, unjust enrichment and fraud, Rush said it was seeking “all damages it is entitled to under the law.”

Update: 

Following publication, Draeger emailed the following statement from Ron Crawford, vice president of marketing in North America: 

"Draeger takes this matter seriously, as patient safety is our top priority and the Draeger brand has symbolized exceptional quality and excellent customer service for more than 125 years. We value our long-standing relationship with Rush University Medical Center and are committed to working through this matter with our customer."

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