Why were the numbers so large? According to the Joint Commission’s 2013 research, factors that contributed to alarm fatigue in the hospital included:
- Alarm parameter thresholds set too tight
- Alarm settings not adjusted to each patient’s needs
- Poor electrode practices resulting in frequent false alarms
- Inability of staff to hear alarms or detect where an alarm is coming from
- Inadequate staff training
- Inadequate staff response
- Alarm malfunction
In its 2019 National Patient Safety Goals, the Joint Commission recommended standardization, but with the ability to customize approaches for individual patients, groups or units.
The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation’s recommendations, Nurse.org reported, included:
- Have an alarm-management process in place
- Review and adjust default parameter settings and ensure appropriate settings
- Determine where and when alarms might not be needed
- Create procedures that allow staff to customize alarms
- Make sure all equipment is maintained properly
Hospitals nationwide have been implementing changes to reduce the number of false alarms at their facilities. Boston Medical Center, for example, adjusted the default heart rate settings to align with each patient’s condition, reducing the number of alarms by 60%.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s changes reduced daily per patient alarms from 180 to 40, with false alarms falling from 95% to 50%.
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