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To provide better patient care, hospitals need alarm management systems that allow them to monitor patients more successfully. Solutions need to meet certain recommendations from the Joint Commission of Medical Device Alarm Safety. However, hospitals must also have certain implementation standards involving all stakeholders, including caregivers, in order to comply with requirements and meet critical needs.

Issues with Patient Monitoring Devices

According to the Joint Commission, patient monitoring devices produce tens of thousands of signals every day. However, only 10%of these alarm signals are useful to the caregiver for clinical intervention. This sometimes frustrates caregivers as they see several alert notifications coming from medical devices that have no clinical value. As a result, caregivers may turn off or ignore alarm signals by adjusting settings, not realizing that the action can turn serious for patients if a critical alarm is missed. In fact, a national survey of effectiveness in medical device alarms found that over 75% of healthcare professionals believe that producing tens of thousands of alarm signals can reduce trust and cause caregivers to disable the alarm device.

To prevent this from happening and safeguard patients, the Joint Commission has recommended improving the safety of alarm systems by alerting caregivers on potential patient problems. (It’s important to note that these alarm systems don’t send numerous signals in order to try to avoid overwhelming and desensitizing caregivers.)

The Joint Commission has recommended the following tasks to improve the performance of an alarm system and fight alarm fatigue:

  1. Establish all alarm management systems as priorities in the hospital.
  2. Identify the most important alarm signals by reviewing:
    • Input from medical staff and clinical departments.
    • Risks to a patient if the alarm signals are not tended to or if they experience malfunction.
    • Whether alarm signals sent are just alarm noise or alarm fatigue.
    • The potential for a patient’s harm based on medical history.
  3. Establish policies and procedures for alarm management system maintenance that determine:
    • Clinically effective and proven settings for alarm signals.
    • When an alarm signal can be disabled.
    • When an alarm parameter can be changed so that a caregiver can still receive critical alerts for patient care.
    • When a leader can set the parameter changes and authorize them.
    • When a leader must be the only one who can set the parameters to switch off a condition.
    • How caregivers must monitor and respond to alarm signals.
    • When caregivers must check for alarm signals for accurate settings, operations and detectability.
  4. Train and educate all staff about the purpose and operations of the alarm management system.

Implementing Alarm Management Systems in Hospitals

Hospitals need to adopt a more effective alarm management system that makes alert notifications more effective and improves patient care and safety. To be more effective, alarm devices need to program data (mainly clinical data like patient diagnosis, treatment and ongoing care) and avoid alarm fatigue as much as possible.

To accomplish this, hospitals need to:

  1. Understand the caregivers’ workflows and information needs. Gather the requirements from caregivers and stakeholders during the planning phase of the new alarm management systems.
  2. Only use clinical data for caregivers, as other data may not be relevant.
  3. Familiarize caregivers with the installation process of the alarm management system, as they are close to the patient and keep them safe.
  4. Ensure the new alarm management system reduces risks in generating alarm signals that induce caregivers to either turn off the alarm signal or ignore it.
  5. Involve informatics personnel as stakeholders to facilitate the pre-assessment of the alarm management system. They have the technical know-how and can educate caregivers in the workflow and use of technology.
  6. Evaluate alarm data so that only clinical data is introduced into the workflow.
  7. Ensure caregivers don’t neglect monitoring the alert signals from the alarm management system.
  8. Educate and train all caregivers on the new system.
  9. Measure the impact on the total number of alarm signals, the percentage of actionable alarm signals and alarm signals that were escalated.

How LogMate® Can Help

Historically, alarm management systems were sending too many signals, causing caregivers to either turn them off or ignore them. This compromised patient safety.

TiPS Incorporated has a solution. LogMate® can make patient care easier for hospitals. LogMate® features like Capture can help configure data according to the Joint Commission guidelines, and other modules like Signal can send out messages to avoid unnecessary fatigue and noise. LogMate® also has an interface for caregivers to monitor each alarm device’s activity on a LogMate® screen or on a user-display screen for bigger and better resolution. Reach out to TiPS to learn more about LogMate®.