Alarm Fatigue, Patient Safety

Technology wish list for reducing ‘alarm fatigue’ introduced at Society for Technology in Anesthesia Annual Meeting

As a National Patient Safety Goal of The Joint Commission, “alarm fatigue” – which occurs when hospitals staffs become desensitized, overwhelmed or distracted by the myriad patient alarms that sound off around them each day – is now one of the most widely discussed issues in the healthcare.

The dialogue continued at the Society for Technology in Anesthesia (STA) Annual Meeting held Jan. 15-18 in Orlando, where along with presenting First National Survey of Patient-Controlled Analgesia Practices, Michael Wong, Executive Director of the Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety (PPAHS) introduced a “Technological Alarm Awareness Wish List”.

Prepared with the help of Maria Cvach, DNP, RN, CCRN (Assistant Director of Nursing, Clinical Standards, The Johns Hopkins Hospital), the wish list – aimed at reducing alarm fatigue and improving alarm management among the nation’s hospitals — calls for:

  • Single Assessment Indicator: Multi-parameter alarms vs. single parameter to improve alarm specificity and decrease the false alarm rate
  • Standardize Alarm Sounds:  Standardization of alarm sounds across similar devices (all vents sound the same, all monitors have the same sounds, etc.)
  • Pause Before Alarming: Slight delays to eliminate nuisance alarms that auto-correct – example ST alarms delayed by 2 minutes prior to sending an alarm
  • Electrode/Skin Interface: Simple way for staff to determine if electrode/skin interface is good
  • Escalation of Alarm Levels: Escalation of alarm levels based on quantity/or change in alarm pattern (i.e. patient has a sudden increase in the number of PVCs; HR suddenly goes down from 90s to 60s)
  • “Smarter” IV Pumps: IV pump that can be smart enough to know when a critical med is infusing and alarm sound is different and more urgent
  • Device Interoperability: Interoperability among multiple devices
  • Alarm Integration: Ancillary notification system that integrates all alarms within the patient room to a single device (highly accurate; no more than 3-4alerts/hour)
  • Multi-Function Wireless Device: Wireless device that is reliable, not heavy, can do multiple functions (barcode, Wi-Fi, text, phone, good battery life, few dropped calls, easy alarm escalation and alarm acknowledgement)

We would like to hear your thoughts and suggestions for technology that could help reduce alarm fatigue.

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