I know you can relate to this situation. You’re walking through a parking lot when suddenly a car alarm starts going off and doesn’t stop, and (I’m willing to bet), you keep on walking without looking back. Sound familiar?
When car alarms first emerged back in the 80s they were few and far between. The ear splitting sounds of the alarms turned heads of onlookers, to what could be a serious situation in need of attention. It didn’t take too long, however, for us all to become desensitized to the familiar warbles and chirps, and we no longer paid any attention to them — defeating their purpose.
The same desensitization, or fatigue, happens with clinical alarms in hospitals. But, there are ways to help reduce alarm fatigue according to a study published in Pediatrics.
In the study researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, led by Christopher Dandoy, M.D., of the hospital’s Cancer and Blood Diseases Institute, found that a standardized, team-based approach could dramatically reduce alarm fatigue — helping to eliminate the possibility of not responding to a true event.
The researchers created a standardized cardiac monitor care procedure for the hospital’s 24-bed pediatric bone marrow transplant unit.
As part of the project, Dandoy and his team developed a process for ordering monitor parameters according to age-appropriate standards, pain-free daily electrode replacement, personalized daily cardiac monitor parameter assessment and a reliable way of appropriately discontinuing monitors. Under these protocols, the median number of daily cardiac alarms fell from 180 to 40, while caregiver compliance increased from 38 percent to 95 percent.
“Cardiac monitors constitute the majority of alarms throughout the hospital,” Dandoy said in a hospital announcement. “We think our approach to reducing monitor alarms can serve as a model for other hospitals throughout the country.”
Fewer false alarms, he added, will allow hospital staff to devote more attention to significant alarms. Although the process was enacted in a pediatric unit, Dandoy and his team said it was applicable to “most units with cardiac monitor care.”
“Hospitals are greatly concerned about alarm fatigue because it interferes with patient safety, and it exposes patients–and the hospitals themselves–to grave harm,” said Michael Wong, executive director of the Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety, who presented findings at the Society for Technology in Anesthesia, earlier this year that hospital staff are exposed to an average of 350 alarms per bed, per day based on a sample from an intensive care unit at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center says nationwide adoption could increase patient safety
You can read the full study here.