Improving Patient Care by Combating Alarm Fatigue

10.31.18 TigerConnect Enterprise, Healthcare
Improving Patient Care by Combating Alarm Fatigue

There’s a quote by business writer Patrick Lencioni that applies to how many hospitals flag and communicate urgent cases — “If everything is important, then nothing is.”

It’s a simple concept, but it’s all too prevalent in the modern medical workplace. The reality is that against a background of flashing screens, urgent beeps, medical device alerts, and people asking for your support, truly critical cases can get lost in the background noise.

As the providers of frontline care, nurses are more prone to alarm fatigue than almost any other healthcare worker. Every nurse is juggling a dozen different tasks and is involved in numerous cases. Sorting through where you need to be, right now, and the tasks you should be performing can sometimes be overwhelming — that isn’t helped by continual demands for attention and action.

In fact, American Nurse Today estimates that between 85% and 95% of alarms are false and don’t require any intervention.

So, what can nurses do to communicate better and avoid alarm fatigue?

Understand What Is Causing Issues with Alarms in the First Place

There are many different sources of alarms — medical equipment and devices, clinical collaboration and communication platforms, manual alarms, and many more. Everyone agrees that there are too many alarms, but it’s useful to understand why they happen, and how they can have an impact on truly meaningful nurse communications.

  • Thresholds are incorrectly set — for automatic alarms, thresholds could be set too low or too high, creating alarms when everything is working within normal parameters.
  • Thresholds don’t pay attention to true urgency or priority — some manufacturers and clinicians will be more cautious than others. This could cause them to set alarms to be more sensitive.
  • No coordination of alarms — alarms can come from dozens of different areas, and since they are not filtered through a central channel, they can all be competing with each other.
  • Alarms are not personalized to a patient — different patients have different healthy baselines. If alarms are not benchmarked to those baselines, they may go off when they don’t need to.
  • Incorrectly installed monitoring or malfunctioning alarms — medical devices may not be properly situated or installed, resulting in false alarms.
  • Inappropriate staff responses to alarms — nurses and other healthcare team members don’t detect, react to, or otherwise deal with alarms appropriately.

The Emergency Care Research Institute says that “caregivers can become overwhelmed trying to respond to alarms, or they can become desensitized, which can lead to missed alarms or a delayed response which places patients at risk.”

This is an issue that needs to be dealt with, fortunately there are some good solutions.

Implement a Centralized Clinical Communication and Collaboration Platform

One of the most effective ways to deal with alarm fatigue is to route alarms and alerts through a centralized platform. Clinical Communication and Collaboration (CC&C) solutions can bring together alerts with relevant patient information to allow nurses to make smarter decisions and deliver better care. This has several significant advantages:

  • One centralized place to understand the various alerts and alarms.
  • Alerts and alarms are tied to specific patients and cases.
  • The CC&C system can also provide diagnostic, treatment, and other patient information for greater context.
  • Thresholds for alerts can be configured in various ways to allow truly urgent alarms to be noticed and acted on.
  • In some circumstances, CC&C users can customize alarms to individual patients so they can quickly react to changes in conditions.

Get the right CC&C platform in place and you can ensure that alerts and alarms are dealt with properly, significantly reducing the number of false alarms, and improving patient care when it’s really needed.

TigerConnect Could be the Answer

Here at TigerConnect, we understand the need for a comprehensive CC&C platform that can integrate with your other systems, especially those that issue alarms. TigerConnect fully integrates with your nurse call systems.

TigerConnect will counter alarm fatigue by automatically sending relevant alerts to your smartphone or workstation on wheels. Our notifications go beyond a simple audible alert and provide detailed messages and context. This helps you to quickly identify the nature of a patient’s request and coordinate an appropriate response. Features include:

  • Re-route bedside alerts to appear as TigerConnect messages.
  • Quickly identify the type of alert based on sender.
  • Forward messages and shorten response times in code blue situations.

Get in touch with us today and find out how TigerConnect can reduce alarm fatigue and significantly improve patient care.