Alarm fatigue or alert fatigue occurs when one is exposed to a large number of frequent alarms (alerts) and consequently becomes desensitized to them. Anyone who has worked in a hospital has certainly experienced this. Even patients can easily become desensitized.
Improving the safety of clinical alarm systems is a Joint Commission National Patient Safety Goal for both PPS and Critical Access Hospitals (NPSG.06.01.01). Numerous authors and organizations have addressed the problem of alarm fatigue, a few of which are listed below.
AACN: Strategies for Managing Alarm Fatigue
AHRQ Patient Safety Network: Harm from Alarm Fatigue
Beckers: 7 Alarm Management Strategies for Nurses
IHI Open School: What Are the Dangers of Alert Fatigue? (YouTube Video)
TJC: Sentinel Event Alert #50
So where to start? Here’s some tips:
- Complete a risk assessment. What are the risks to your patients from alarm fatigue? You may want to consider completing a Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA).
- Identify Alarm Fatigue as a Patient Safety Issue. Regardless of the size of the organization, alarm fatigue can be a significant patient safety issue. Discuss with organizational leaders inclusion of alarm fatigue as one of your patient safety initiatives.
- Review the literature. Find out what experts are recommending and other hospitals are doing to combat alarm fatigue.
- Develop a plan and implement evidence-based best practices for reducing Alarm Fatigue.
- Monitor your plan. Your plan should have both process and outcome measures.