More than 2.5 million alarms were triggered on bedside monitors in a single month, according to the first study on hospital alarms conducted in a real-world setting. An article about the study in Medical Express notes that excessive alarm noise can lead to alarm fatigue among nurses and other clinicians and negative outcomes for patients.
The study was conducted by Jessica Zègre-Hemsey, assistant professor at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill School of Nursing and a cardiac monitoring expert, and University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Nursing Professor Barbara Drew, along with her UCSF colleagues. The study also found that 88.8 percent of the alarms for abnormal cardiac conditions were false.
"Current technologies have been instrumental in saving lives but they can be improved," Zègre-Hemsey tells Medical Xpress. "For example, current monitoring systems do not take into account differences among patients. If alarm settings were tailored more specifically to individuals that could go a long way in reducing the number of alarms health care providers respond to."
Zègre-Hemsey and her colleagues recommend that clinicians, engineers, and administrators collaborate to develop monitors that can be configured to individual patients and create a "gold standard" database of annotated alarms to reduce false alarms.
"Alarm fatigue is a large and complex problem," she said. "Yet the implications are far-reaching since sentinel events like patient death have been reported. This is a current patient safety crisis."
The full study is available on PLOS ONE.
In a related story, the Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) looks at what local hospitals are doing to reduce alarm fatigue. For example, the Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center recently moved to a system in which some patient alarms go directly to a nurse’s phone, thereby decreasing alarm noise by approximately 20 percent.
An INQRI-funded study found a unique way to use different sounds to reduce alarm fatigue and help keep patients safe. Led by Tracey Yap and Jay Kim the team used music to reduce the incidence of pressure ulcers. The study used music to cue patients in long-term care facilities to move in order to avoid getting pressure ulcers. The music also cued staff to help to move those patients who could not move on their own.
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