Joint Commission has added to the growing concern of alarm fatigue in the workplace. Be it beepers, phones, intercomes, computers, what have you, the question posed is whether or not the barrage of alarms is affected healthcare provision?
Alarms are also a normal component of medical devices such as ventilators, blood pressure monitors and ECG machines, it seems everything has a beep of urgency. But that urgency has translated into damaging results.
Over a four-year period, a FDA database showed that there were more than 560 alarm-related deaths and The Joint Commission’s sentinel event database includes reports of 80 alarm-related deaths and 13 serious alarm-related injuries during a similar period.
Alarms are intended to alert caregivers of potential problems, but can compromise patient safety if they are not properly managed.
Ensure that there is a process for safe alarm management and response in areas identified by the organization as high risk.
Prepare an inventory of alarm-equipped medical devices used in high-risk areas and for high-risk clinical conditions, and identify the default alarm settings and the limits appropriate for each care area.
Establish guidelines for alarm settings on alarm-equipped medical devices used in high-risk areas and for high-risk clinical conditions; include identification of situations when alarm signals are not clinically necessary.
Establish guidelines for tailoring alarm settings and limits for individual patients. The guidelines should address situations when limits can be modified to minimize alarm signals and the extent to which alarms can be modified to minimize alarm signals.
Inspect, check and maintain alarm-equipped medical devices to provide for accurate and appropriate alarm settings, proper operation, and detectability. Base the frequency of these activities on criteria such as manufacturers’ recommendations, risk levels and current experience.