Clinical alarms were designed with the best of intentions—to alert clinicians about patient emergencies or changes in patient conditions. Most bedside medical devices, such as monitors, infusion pumps and ventilators, are alarm-equipped, but the lack of interoperability among these devices means multiple noises per patient room. Depending on the hospital unit, the number of clinical alerts per patient per day can result in thousands of alarm signals on every unit and tens of thousands throughout the hospital. The inevitable result? Alarm fatigue. The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) defines alarm fatigue as “sensory overload when clinicians are exposed to an excessive number of alarms, which can result in desensitization to alarms and missed alarms.”
As a rule, nurses love their jobs. Despite the demanding, fast-paced environment, many nurses enjoy their career because they get to make a difference, positively impact patients’ lives and help people through vulnerable moments.
The healthcare market is competitive. As consumers take more control of their healthcare decisions, they’re being more selective in who they choose to provide care and where they go to receive it. That’s why it is more important than ever for hospitals to focus on improving the patient experience. Hospitals that produce higher patient experience scores are more successful than hospitals that don’t.
Nurses are undeniably the backbone of the hospital. For the last 16 years, nursing has held the highest position on Gallup’s annual survey of the public’s trust in occupation—high above positions such as doctors, lawyers, pharmacists and bankers. And that trust is well-deserved: nurses tend to patients’ wounds, administer medications, educate patients about medical tests and treatments, celebrate births and remarkable recoveries, and provide comfort for those facing disappointing news or hard decisions.
In May 2017, there were 2.9 million registered nurses working in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). But that’s not enough to meet future demand, experts say. The BLS estimates that the employment of registered nurses is projected to grow by 15 percent from 2016 to 2026—faster than all other occupations. Why? Not only is the healthcare industry putting more emphasis on preventive care, but the aging baby boomer population and growing rates of chronic conditions are further driving the demand for healthcare. Nurses are also getting older and retiring, and fewer people are entering the profession. Those new to the nursing workforce report a significant level of workplace stress, and surveys of newly licensed hospital nurses reveal that 43 percent leave their jobs within three years of employment.
Now more than ever, hospital leaders are discovering their facilities must operate like a business to achieve financial stability. The problem? Most hospital leaders are making staffing, patient care and business decisions based on what they assume is solid, reliable data. But much of the time, helpful analysis is stymied by missing or incomplete information—or data that’s flawed. That’s why healthcare facilities should be turning to real-time, actionable, point-of-care data.
As reimbursement models reward or penalize hospitals based on patient experience, healthcare organizations are more focused on the experience they’re providing patients.
Staying in the hospital can be a stressful and overwhelming experience for many people. In addition to battling anxiety about medical conditions, tests and procedures, many patients may also be perplexed by the frequent noise, annoyed by beeps and alarms from bedside machines, and simply feel uncomfortable being away from the comforts of home. Research indicates that checking on patients at regular intervals—otherwise known as hourly rounding—helps address basic patient needs, as well as enhance patient safety and the patient experience, says a September 2014 study in the Journal of Nursing Administration.
As the healthcare industry continues to shift toward value-based care, providers are working to improve communication between doctors, nurses and other clinicians. The renewed emphasis is because poor communication leads to poor patient outcomes and decreased patient safety. According to a 2015 study from The Joint Commission, lack of communication was identified as the root cause of 21 percent of sentinel events, or those events resulting in death or serious injury to a patient.
Hospitals are noisy environments—just ask any nurse how many bells, whistles and alarms they hear during a 12-hour shift. Depending on the hospital unit, the number of alarms per patient per day can reach several hundred, resulting in thousands of alarm signals on every unit and tens of thousands throughout the hospital every day, according to the Joint Commission.