How Hospital Noise Impacts Patients—and How to Alleviate It

Posted by Sherry Henricks, MBA RRT on February 8, 2018

alarmfatigue-1.jpgHospitals are anything but quiet. The whish of automatic doors, squeaking carts, chatter in the hallways, and televisions blaring in the room next door can be a nuisance for someone enduring a hospital stay. Add to that the cacophony of bells, beeps and chimes from bedside machines and patient monitoring devices, and it’s no surprise that noise is the top complaint of patients, visitors and employees on HCAHPS surveys.

Patients in an intensive or critical care unit are surrounded by multiple machines—ventilators, vital sign monitors, infusion pumps, etc.—and each contain several alarms. The problem? None of those devices communicate with one another. Studies show that bedside alarms for just one patient can sound an average of 133 times per day. Try resting with that kind of ruckus! That constant noise is grating for patients—research indicates that high noise levels can lead to higher blood pressure and even interfere with wound healing and pain management. Although alarms and notifications are necessary, the Joint Commission estimates that between 85 and 99 percent of the signals do not require clinical intervention.

The lack of interoperability between machines can also lead nurses to experience alarm fatigue, or worse, auditory masking, which occurs when nurses can’t detect a specific alarm due to the multiple bells and whistles coming from various machines. The continuous sound of alarms can add layers of stress to nurses, making it difficult to determine which situations are the most critical if every device is sounding. This can have serious consequences for patients, resulting in more falls and potential medical errors.

While it’s impossible to eliminate all the noise in hospitals, healthcare organizations can take steps to silence the alarms by improving their clinical alarm management systems. “Hospitals need a standardized way to not only capture data, but also deliver patient alarms to the right caregiver at the right time rather than having caregivers go room-to-room chasing phantom sounds,” wrote David Condra, Amplion Founder and Director, in a 2017 article for Nashville Medical News.

An effective alarm management system should provide hospitals with access to real-time data, making it easier for nurses to manage alarm activity by floor, specific medical device and patient room. The Amplion Alert care assurance platform integrates a next-generation nurse call system with care collaboration tools and alarm management capabilities in a single system. With Amplion’s platform, alarm input devices are installed in patient rooms to support the devices that are used on that unit—and each alarm type is detected as a unique alert. Amplion Alert also sends messages about the location and urgency of the alarm device to the correct nurse or caregiver, helping nurses to detect the origin of the alarm and prioritize the urgency of the response faster.

“Alarm fatigue is a real danger,” Condra wrote. “But by leveraging technological advances and a strategic, data-driven approach to address it, hospitals can better ensure patient safety, significantly decrease adverse medical events, increase HCAHPS and patient satisfaction scores, and greatly improve employee work environments.”

Are noisy alarms causing your staff to feel fatigued? Schedule a demo to learn how Amplion can help your facility be a quieter, more restful environment by improving alarm management.

Topics: Blog

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