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Joint Commission warns hospitals that alarm fatigue puts patients at risk

Boston.com, April 9, 2013
The national organization that accredits hospitals warned on Monday that the constant beeping of alarms on patient monitors desensitizes caregivers, causing them to ignore or even disable the sounds that signal patients may be in danger. The Joint Commission issued a "sentinel event alert" to hospitals, saying that the problem of "alarm fatigue" can jeopardize patients, and it urged hospitals "to take a focused look at this serious patient safety issue." Between January 2009 and June 2012, the group received reports of 80 alarm-related deaths and 13 serious alarm-related injuries. Hospitals report these events voluntarily -- they are not required to -- so the numbers of deaths and injuries are likely far higher, the commission said.