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Reducing Alarm Fatigue: A Modest Plan

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, October 24, 2012

Cvach offers a few quick steps to get things rolling.

  1. "The first thing is you need to get an alarm committee, an interdisciplinary collaborative group that wants to solve the problem for the hospital," she says.
  2. "No. 2 is you have to figure out a way to measure what is happening. What is your baseline?"
  3. "The third thing is don't look at solving the problem as a whole hospital. Look at solving it as population-specific," she says. "What happens in an ICU is going to be different from what happens in a telemetry unit and that is different from a pediatric unit."
  4. "No. 4 is to establish an alarm protocol that works for your institution not just on paper, but actually in practice.
  5. The fifth thing is to try to establish default parameters and train the nurses so they know how to go in and customize alarms so they are actionable alarms for patients," she says.


In the short term it looks like alarm fatigue will have to be taken up by hospitals and health systems on an individual basis.

Broader efforts in the United States to solve alarm fatigue will require coordinated input from patients, device makers, clinicians, hospital administrators, professional associations, and the government.

"Part of that is to get a common language and standards between equipment. Your monitors may not speak the same language or work on the same systems," Cvach says. "The problem is we have not achieved interoperability and we are a long way from that. Once we can achieve interoperatbilty with our medical devices we are going to take a closer step to solving this problem."


John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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