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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 14 2011: Make alarms that are sensitive and precise. So that they are novel enough to insight a response. If heart monitors set of code blues all the time then the mortality rate would be great but the reason that alarm is sensitive is because its governed by a reliable moderator. If IV tubing was less prone to getting kinks, if pulse ox had a consistant way of staying on and deliver constant data, if O2 delivery was comfortable, these alarms wouldn't happen. the human element isn't the primary reason. the lack of human is. the lack of pt interaction in general is causing this fatigue. our pt's are numbers on a computer and their bodies are about as important and the interactive mannequin we had in school. until we change the back to pt first and first touch then we won't solve the urgency in health care

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