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Posted: January 14th, 2023

Reducing Alarm Fatigue and Improving Alarm Management in Hospitals

Reducing Alarm Fatigue and Improving Alarm Management in Hospitals

Alarm fatigue is a serious problem that affects the quality and safety of patient care in hospitals. Alarm fatigue occurs when clinicians are exposed to a large number of alarms, many of which are false or irrelevant, and become desensitized or overwhelmed by them. This can lead to missed alarms, delayed responses, or inappropriate actions, resulting in adverse outcomes for patients (Sendelbach and Funk, 2013).

Alarm management is the process of designing, implementing, and evaluating strategies to reduce the number of unnecessary alarms and improve the response to clinically significant alarms. Alarm management involves a multidisciplinary team of stakeholders, including clinicians, biomedical engineers, information technology specialists, administrators, and patients. Alarm management aims to optimize the alarm system by ensuring that the alarms are accurate, actionable, audible, and aligned with the patient’s condition and needs (Cvach, 2012).

In this blog post, we will discuss some of the best practices for reducing alarm fatigue and improving alarm management in hospitals, based on the latest evidence and recommendations from experts.

Best Practices for Reducing Alarm Fatigue and Improving Alarm Management

1. Conduct an alarm inventory and analysis. The first step in alarm management is to identify and quantify the sources, types, and frequency of alarms in the hospital. This can be done by using data from the alarm system, conducting direct observations, or surveying the staff. The alarm inventory and analysis can help to identify the most problematic alarms, the root causes of false or nuisance alarms, and the opportunities for improvement (Cvach, 2012).

2. Establish alarm priorities and parameters. The second step in alarm management is to establish clear and consistent criteria for determining which alarms are clinically relevant and require immediate attention, and which alarms are less urgent or informational. This can be done by using standardized definitions and classifications of alarm priority levels, such as high, medium, or low. Additionally, the alarm parameters should be customized to match the patient’s condition and needs, such as adjusting the thresholds, limits, or delays of physiological monitors. The alarm priorities and parameters should be reviewed and updated regularly to reflect the changes in the patient’s status or treatment (Sendelbach and Funk, 2013).

3. Implement alarm notification systems. The third step in alarm management is to implement systems that can deliver the alarms to the appropriate clinician in a timely and effective manner. This can be done by using devices such as smartphones, pagers, or wireless phones that can receive alarm signals from the central station or bedside monitors. The alarm notification systems should also provide information about the alarm type, location, priority, and time. Moreover, the alarm notification systems should have mechanisms to ensure that the alarms are acknowledged, escalated, or cancelled as needed (Cvach et al., 2014).

4. Educate and train staff on alarm management. The fourth step in alarm management is to educate and train staff on the rationale, goals, policies, and procedures of alarm management. This can be done by providing orientation sessions, in-service programs, simulation exercises, or online modules that can enhance the staff’s knowledge, skills, and attitudes toward alarm management. The education and training should also emphasize the importance of teamwork, communication, and collaboration among staff members and other stakeholders in responding to alarms (Sendelbach et al., 2016).

5. Monitor and evaluate alarm management outcomes. The fifth step in alarm management is to monitor and evaluate the outcomes of alarm management interventions. This can be done by using indicators such as the number of alarms per patient per day,
the percentage of false or nuisance alarms,
the response time to alarms,
the patient satisfaction with alarm noise,
and the incidence of adverse events related to alarms.
The monitoring and evaluation should also involve feedback from staff members and other stakeholders on their perceptions and experiences of alarm management. The results of monitoring and evaluation should be used to identify gaps,
challenges,
and successes,
and to guide further improvement efforts (Cvach et al., 2014).

Conclusion

Alarm fatigue is a common and serious problem that affects the quality and safety of patient care in hospitals. Alarm management is a complex and dynamic process that requires a multidisciplinary team approach and continuous improvement cycles. By following the best practices for reducing alarm fatigue and improving alarm management,
hospitals can enhance their clinical performance,
patient outcomes,
and staff satisfaction.

References

Cvach M (2012) Monitor Alarm Fatigue: An Integrative Review.
Biomedical Instrumentation & Technology 46(4): 268-277.

Cvach M et al. (2014) Use of Pagers with an Alarm Escalation System to Reduce Cardiac Monitor Alarm Signals.
Journal of Nursing Care Quality 29(1): 9-18.

Sendelbach S et al. (2016) A Multifaceted esaypro Approach to Improving Outcomes in a Hospital-Based Telemetry Unit.
Critical Care Nurse 36(1): 56-65.

Sendelbach S and Funk M (2013) Alarm Fatigue: A Patient Safety Concern.
AACN Advanced Critical Care 24(4): 378-386.

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