Hospital cuts alarm fatigue by decreasing noise

Boston Medical Center reduces audible alarms as a way to combat alarm fatigue and improve patient safety

By Healthcare Facilities Today
January 20, 2014

Boston Medical Center (BMC) has implemented a cost-effective approach during a six-week pilot program that resulted in a drastic drop in audible alarms, according to an article on the Science Daily website. The effort has since been expanded to all BMC inpatient medical surgical units.

BMC data showed that patient status arrhythmia and parameter limit "warning" alarms frequently preceded life-threatening arrhythmic events, accordion to the article. During the pilot, these alarms were raised to "crisis" alarms that are heard in real time and require immediate action. Nurses also reduced alarm settings that did not indicate a crisis based on patient health care needs.

Working in a cardiology unit, BMC reduced audible cardiac monitor and telemetry alarms by 89 percent, dropping daily audible alarm averages from 12,546 to 1,424. Before the pilot, the unit averaged 87,823 weekly audible alarms. During the pilot, the number dropped to an average of 9,967 weekly audible alarms, with the largest decrease from the changes to monitors for bradycardia, tachycardia and heart rate parameter limits, which dropped from 62,793 to 3,970, the article said.

Daily reviews of incident reports showed that no reports were filed during the pilot for adverse events involving cardiac monitoring.

Noise levels fell to 72 decibels from 90 decibels pre-pilot. Patient and clinician satisfaction increased and none of the changes made during the pilot required additional technology or financial resources, the article said.

The Joint Commission issued a Sentinel Event Alert about 80 alarm-related deaths that occurred between January 2009-June 2012 and identified alarm safety as a 2014 national patient safety goal. 

Read the article.

 

 

 




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