Why Improving Clinical Alerts Is Vital for Hospital Safety and Staff Retention

Posted by Frank Grant, President & CEO on December 8, 2017

alarms.jpgAlarm fatigue can lead to medical errors and an unsafe hospital culture, according to a recent medical informatics study. But that’s not all: A less considered, but still valid pain point of unremitting and useless clinical alerts, is an overworked, dissatisfied staff.

The potential for alarm fatigue is especially high in critical care units, where acutely ill patients may be surrounded by more than a dozen medical devices at a time—all with multiple alarms. The constant cacophony of loud beeps and blares can lead healthcare providers to be desensitized to the alarms—tuning them out or turning them down or off—which can cascade into an array of medical errors.

Inappropriate alarm overrides, which can trigger error, are more frequent than many healthcare providers realize, according to a study published in the October 27, 2017, issue of the Journal of American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA). The study showed that nearly three-fourths of medication-related clinical decision support alerts in inpatients were overridden. Researchers, who studied alerts over a three-year period at a nearly 793-bed teaching institution, concluded 40 percent of overrides were inappropriate.

Whether it’s healthcare providers who override alarms or alarm systems that fail to alert providers, these so-called “user errors” figure in 58 percent of EHR-related malpractice claims, according to a recent study by The Doctors Company.

“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.

Not only do alarm fatigue and overrides factor in patient safety failures, but they also lead to clinician burnout and turnover. Constant, unproductive alarms can overwhelm clinicians and even drive them to consider quitting their jobs, researchers say.

The problem has become so widespread that in 2013, the Joint Commission named fighting alarm fatigue a National Patient Safety Goal. It now requires accredited hospitals and critical access hospitals to not only increase their awareness of the risk associated with alarms, but also improve their clinical alarm systems.

The Solution: Smart Technology

Amplion is committed to increasing awareness and reducing the risks of alarm fatigue. That’s why alarm management is a key feature of our care assurance platform.

Amplion Alert routes relevant messages about the location and urgency of alarming devices to the appropriate nurse or caregiver. This targeted messaging helps caregivers quickly pinpoint the origin of alarms and prioritize how quickly they need to respond.

Real-time point-of-care data collected at the patient’s bedside is aggregated and displayed through a reporting portal where nursing leaders can monitor alarm activity and solve issues before they become chronic. Colorful, visualized reports help hospitals analyze and compare alarm volume by device at the enterprise, unit level or by individual patient room. These reports also deliver key data hospitals need to adjust alarm parameters to filter out false alarms before messages are ever sent.

Overwhelmed by the challenge of alarm fatigue at your hospital and unsure of where to start? In a Nashville Medical News article, Amplion’s founder David Condra gives advice on how to evaluate alarm fatigue at your hospital, assemble the right team to address it, find the right communications technology to solve it and get your clinical teams behind it.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you transform your nurse call system into a cutting-edge tool for combating alarm fatigue and improving efficiency and outcomes. Ready to begin using real-time health data and technologies to improve patient care at your hospital, but not sure where to start? Download our Ebook for a blueprint.

Video: How Hospitals Can Reduce Burnout and Staff on True Demand

Topics: Blog

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