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Deadline to improve alarm management is fast approaching

by Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | December 23, 2013
When alarm hazards made it all the way to number one on the Top 10 Health Technology Hazards for 2014, Joint Commission knew that they had to take action. They created the 2014 National Patient Safety Goal in the attempt to get hospitals to improve alarm management and the deadline for Phase I criteria is fast approaching.

Alarm fatigue is recognized as the worst alarm hazard in hospitals today. "There's this whole gamut of sounds that are coming from many devices — infusion pumps, ventilators, physiological monitors and many other [items of] medical equipment that are sitting in these rooms," Rikin Shah, senior associate in the Applied Solution Group at ECRI Institute, told DOTmed News. "What's happening in many of the care areas is there's desensitization to these alarms and there's a lot of nuisance alarms also coming in play with alarm fatigue."

Phase I will begin in January 2014 when hospitals will be required to create alarms as an organizational priority and recognize the most important alarms to manage based on their own internal situations.

For the hospitals that don't comply, they could face big consequences. "In order to maintain their accreditation, they have to resolve an area where they're not compliant, so we give them a certain time to come into compliance," said Maureen Carr, project director at Joint Commission.

ECRI Institute has also had a stake in helping hospitals improve alarm management. They have put together educational webinars that explain different strategies that work in some hospitals and they send out alarm management starter kits with a sample letter for hospital leadership, care area assessment forms, nursing surveys, and incident report reviews.

Their biggest effort is the consulting services they provide that help hospitals recognize four fundamental tenets, which are the hospital's culture, infrastructure, technology, and practices and policies. "We've been helping hospitals with the National Patient Safety Goal in determining how the four tenets work together and help recommend solutions and strategies that are unique to the context of their own hospital," said Shah.

Shah said they have received positive feedback from hospitals about the information and services they provide, but the question still remains as to whether hospitals will meet the deadline. "We've seen hospitals that have been looking at this proactively and there are hospitals that look at it reactively, and it's up to all the individual hospitals," said Shah.

Both Shah and Carr said that they believe most hospitals will meet the deadline for Phase I criteria. "Most hospitals comply with our requirements, obviously there are always some that don't, but I think, for the most part, we do see that they do pay attention to the requirements, and meet them," said Carr.

The sole purpose of everything ECRI Institute and Joint Commission is doing is to create a better environment for patients and clinicians. "We want to create an environment of clinically actionable alarms, ultimately creating a safer and a quieter environment for patients to heal in and also create quieter environments for clinicians to work in," said Shah.

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