Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Changes to Alarms Helps Reduce Noise Fatigue, Protect Patients

A new study aims to address reports of alarm fatigue, which have plagued nursing staff and contributed to negative health outcomes for patients, by determining variables that would safely reduce noncritical alarms on a general medical-surgical unit.

For the study, published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, Boston Medical Center reduced its weekly audible cardiac alarm rate by 89 percent, which increased the satisfaction rates of nurses and other staff, and their patients. Deborah A. Whalen led the study, which involved changing alarms for bradycardia, tachycardia, and heart rate limits to "crisis," FierceHealthcare reports.

Nursing staff who participated in the study had to view and act on the alarm each time it sounded, and self-resetting alarms were eliminated. The research team found that by eliminating alarms with self-reset capabilities, hospitals can significantly reduce the volume of calls without compromising patient safety.

The Joint Commission praised the Boston Medical Center study in a news release. The Commission previously issued a Sentinel Event Alert about alarm-related deaths and identified alarm safety as a 2014 National Patient Safety Goal. The Commission's two-phase National Patient Safety Goal aims to combat alarm fatigue, FierceHealthcare previously reported. The first phase, which began January 1, 2014 heightens awareness of the potential risks associated with clinical alarms and the second phase, which will begin January 1, 2016, will introduce requirements to mitigate those risks.

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. Dr. Yap blogged about the study and some unexpected results on the RWJF Human Capital blog.

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