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Cheng Zhang

Clinical Engineer, VA Boston Healthcare System

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How to effectively reduce alarm fatigue in hospitals?

Our increasingly complex medical technology is forcing our clinicians to stay on top of an overwhelming number of parameters and physiological alarms. Over the past few years, the number of incidents involving alarm fatigue has escalated, leading to media frenzy (http://articles.boston.com/2011-09-21/lifestyle/30185391_1_alarm-fatigue-nurses-patient). Several patients were severely injured and some even died due to medical alarm exhaustion.

Proposed solutions:
1. Integrate alarms to reduce the number of alarms
2. Decreasing physiological threshold (doctors are very conservative about this)
3. Monitoring how long it takes the clinicians to respond to each alarm
4. Offer more training to clinicians about the alarm functionality
5. Deliver alarms to responsible clinician via beeper, cell phone.

Any inputs or suggestions are welcome!

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    Nov 2 2011: A few comments so far have mentioned about integration. That's one of the key issues in my opinion. We need to make sure that technologies that produce alarms should NOT be designed without considering other alarm sources.
    Moreover, customization can help reduce fatigue. So clinicians and patients that benefit technologies should be able to adjust alarms.

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