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Reducing Alarm Fatigue: A Modest Plan

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, October 24, 2012

Even though it's quieter in the wards of The Johns Hopkins Hospital these days, Cvach says staff still can't measure the effect that reducing alarms has on quality of care.

"We know that we have decreased alarms. What we don't know and what we need to determine is if we done anything to patient outcomes," she says.

"We have the number of response teams called, the number of codes that are called on the units. We can do a before and after. What we don't have is hardcore data on outcomes that are multi-site that also look at specific changes we made. That is a study that is going to happen but it takes many thousands of dollars for these randomized control trials."

Without that data, it may prove difficult for many community hospitals to take up alarm fatigue.

Not so, says Cvach. "Actually it is easier in community hospitals because they can make decisions quicker than you can in a complex place like this," she says.

For instance, reducing alarms doesn't necessarily require expensive software. "Even just changing electrodes daily, we saw a significant drop in alarms and we got good data on the monitors. If you get good data in you are going to get good data out," Cvach says.

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