Baltimore Hospital Malpractice Lawyers: Alarming News onThe Proper Use of Medical MonitorsSeptember 3, 2013
Most people subjected to constant noise eventually tune it out. In a health care setting, tuning out the beeps, clicks and alarms of medical monitoring equipment is a growing problem in American health care called alarm fatigue.
In April of this year, the Joint Commission, a non-profit agency that monitors and accredits healthcare facilities, issued a report discussing the real dangers facing patients in hospitals crowded with machines and busy staff. While the beep of one machine means normal function, a tweet on a different monitor may signal the need for critical care. Points noted in the report include the following:
- Reports of 80 deaths, 13 permanent injuries and five patients requiring extended hospital care were received by the Joint Commission between January of 2009 and June of 2012.
- Health care providers may hear and be expected to interpret and respond to hundreds of alarms per day — per patient.
- Injury occurred because of alarms ignored, improperly set, turned off or turned down, as well as alarms that were inaudible where needed.
- The most common injuries related to improper use of alarms resulted from falls, respirator problems, medication errors and delays in treatment.
From understaffing to lack of training, the complexity of the alarm fatigue problem will not be addressed overnight, or with a simple solution. Calling for a multidisciplinary response and possibly a National Patient Safety Goal, the Joint Commission recommends numerous strategies to address the problem including development of guidelines concerning use, maintenance, education and training on monitors in a healthcare setting.