How often do you hear bed and chair alarms going off in your SNF? Do you see your staff responding quickly, or has it become a delayed reaction? This problem is referred to as Alarm Fatigue, and Joint Commission has recently drawn attention to this issue. Alarm systems are crucial in the healthcare industry, and can be found on monitoring devices as well as patient safety tools. At times, staff members encounter an overload of alarm stimuli, and only a small number of those sounds may require clinical intervention. As staff members become habituated to the sound of alarms, they tune them out, which in turn can lead to injury or even death.
Thankfully, this doesn't have to be an issue. Joint Commission provides a host of solutions, including the following:
- Prepare an inventory of alarm-equipped medical devices used in high-risk areas and for high-risk clinical conditions, and identify the default alarm settings and the limits appropriate for each care area.
- Establish guidelines for alarm settings on alarm-equipped medical devices used in high- risk areas and for high-risk clinical conditions; include identification of situations when alarm signals are not clinically necessary.
- Provide all members of the clinical care team (as defined by the organization) with training on the organization's process for safe alarm management and response in high-risk areas (as identified by the organization), and on the safe use of the alarmed medical devices on which they rely. Also provide ongoing training on new alarmed medical devices and updates to alarmed medical devices, and ensure that new members of the clinical care team receive training on the alarmed medical devices on which they rely.
- To help reduce nuisance alarm signals, change single-use sensors (for
- example, ECG leads) according to manufacturer's recommendations, unless contraindicated.
- Re-establish priorities for the adoption of alarm technology; the priority-setting process should drive technology adoption rather than allowing technology to drive the process.
- Establish a cross-disciplinary team that includes representation from clinicians, clinical engineering, information technology, and risk management, to address alarm safety and the potential impact of alarm fatigue in all patient care areas.
- Establish a process for continual improvement and constant optimizing of alarm system policies and configurations.
- Review trends and patterns in alarm-related events to identify opportunities for improving alarm use.
- Implement an alarm system management policy, including the periodic review of alarm coverage processes and systems, and the development of realistic, implementable strategies to address vulnerabilities.
A full review of the article and the solutions is available at the following website: http://www.jointcommission.org/assets/1/18/SEA_50_alarms_4_5_13_FINAL1.PDF