Medical alarms serve an important role in hospitals and clinics. For example, they can tell doctors and nurses when a patient’s blood oxygen levels are dangerously low. They can also determine if their blood pressure drops. But too many alarms can lead to slow response times and put patients at risk. In fact, alarm fatigue is one of the top health technology risks. Healthcare workers can’t do their jobs when alarms aren’t working.
A 2017 study looked at alarm fatigue in hospitals. It found that a large number of these alarms were false even when staff set them correctly. The study highlighted the need for better alarm management in hospitals. After all, alarms that work as they’re supposed to increase efficiency and improve patient safety.
Alarm fatigue isn’t just a problem for hospitals though. It can happen in any setting with active alarm systems. Alarm fatigue can lead to operator mistakes, lost time, and an unsafe workplace. A good alarm management system goes a long way in solving the problem, but where to start?
How To Reduce Alarm Fatigue in an Organization
There are easy steps one can take to reduce alarm fatigue. Here are the top 10 best practices:
- Interview operators before deciding on alarm configurations. Find out what their needs are. Chances are they’ve already found areas that are causing problems. However, they may not feel like they have the power to make changes on their own.
- Identify the risks of ignoring an alarm. If there are no risks, there should be no alarm. Make sure alarms are prioritized correctly. Alarms should be clearly identified both by the type and magnitude of the associated risk. Staff should know which alarm to pay attention to first.
- Make a list of equipment and processes that use alarms. This will give operators some idea of the number of alarms they have to deal with. Create a list for alarm inspections to document the proper settings, operation, and detectability.
- Train staff on alarm management. Everyone should have a clear idea of who is responsible for what. Who can turn alarms off? Operators should know what each alarm in their control means and how to handle it. Have training on a regular basis to make sure everyone is on the same page.
- Create a maintenance schedule for equipment. This will lower the chance that broken equipment will trigger an alarm.
- Inspect alarm sensors. This makes sure that alarms are working and lowers the risk of false alarms. The alarm system should inform operators about the problem, not become the problem.
- Make sure alarms are easy to notice when they go off. For example, an auditory alarm in a noisy environment may go undetected. A visual alarm that’s hidden from view isn’t going to work either.
- Upgrade the system when the time is right. Does the alarm system that worked in the past still meet everyone’s needs today? Upgrading the system could pay for itself by saving both time and money. It can also prevent alarm fatigue by removing irrelevant alarms.
- Share information and communicate with operators about successes and failures. Talk about problems regularly in safety meetings so everyone can learn from the experience. Allow operators to ask questions. Use this as a chance to improve safety standards and operating procedures.
- Be flexible. Alarm needs change as organizations grow, technology advances, and teams transform. Flexibility is key in ensuring that operators are equipped with relevant alarms so the team can optimize processes and enable more efficient work.
Look for a Reliable Partner
Whether you work in a sensitive environment like healthcare or in a busy manufacturing facility, the need to reduce alarm fatigue is clear. Fortunately, the experts at TiPS Incorporated are here to help. TiPS offers a wide variety of alarm management services and professional advice for any organization. If you are ready to improve productivity and enhance worker safety, contact TiPS today.