Alarm fatigue is a serious patient safety concern in health care facilities, such as hospitals, because it can harm patients, preventing them from getting essential or even life-saving treatments.
Alarm fatigue is the phenomenon that occurs when health care workers, who hear thousands of alarms day to day, start to ignore these alarms because they have become desensitized to them.
According to researchers:
- The average hospital health care professional is exposed to about 350 alarms per patient per day. This means that, on average, these professionals are exposed to about 59,000 alarms every day.
- Over the course of a month, about 2.5 million beeps and alarms are sounded at a given hospital
- Between 72 and 99 percent of the alarms that sound in hospitals are false alarms.
As Michael Wong, the executive director of Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety, has explained, “Hospitals are greatly concerned about alarm fatigue because it interferes with patient safety, and it exposes patients – and the hospitals themselves – to grave harm.”
How to Fight Alarm Fatigue: What Researchers Have Suggested
Given that alarm fatigue can result in severe, if not fatal, complications for patients, figuring out ways to combat this problem is clearly crucial. Some of the suggestions that researchers and medical professionals have made to fight alarm fatigue include (but are not limited to):
- Improving the technology used by alarms – Specifically, research from the University of California, San Francisco found that computer algorithms are largely to blame for false alarms in hospitals. Cutting out false alarms could reduce alarm fatigue, they have suggested.
- Using more precise patient monitoring devices – In fact, some have recommended that these monitoring devices include carbon monoxide monitors and/or cardiac monitors so that health care professionals are aware when alarms are related to life-threatening conditions or complications.
- Making certain staffing changes – This would require that, among other things, hospitals focus on delegating responsibility for certain alarms to certain staff who would be aware of what different sounds from the alarms mean.
Ultimately, however, some have recommended that a combination of staffing changes, new technologies and even changes to the layouts of hospitals themselves would be needed to really combat alarm fatigue and better protect patients.
What do you think about the facts regarding alarm fatigue? Do you think the above could be effective at combatting it? Share your opinions with us on Facebook & Google+.
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