Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Do Alarms Really Help Keep Patients Safe?

A recent article in the Washington Post by Lena H. Sun discusses the fact that with so much alarm-caused noise in a hospital (ventilators going off, infusion pumps beeping, blood pressure monitors emitting tone after tone), it's difficult to know when an alarm is indicating a serious problem or is just over-sensitive.  As a result, Sun writes that health care workers suffer "alarm fatigue" that leads them to turning down the volume on devices, turning them off, or just ignoring them.  These actions could definitely put patients at risk when an alarm does indicate an emergency.

An INQRI-funded study found one way to use different sounds to 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 couldn't move on their own. Dr. Yap blogged about the study and some unexpected results on the RWJF Human Capital blog for National Nurses Week.

But, what about those traditional alarms?  Do they keep patients safe or do we need to find another way? 

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