Alarms in hospitals are used to alert a patient’s health care team
that action is required. However, studies have found that patient alarms
are so frequent in hospitals that nurses and other health professionals
begin to tune them out. This phenomenon is referred to as “alarm
As San Diego medical malpractice lawyers, we are pleased that the Joint
Commission, a non-profit organization tasked with accrediting and certifying
more than 19,000 health care organizations and programs in the United
States, has made alarm management one of its key safety goals for 2016.
Starting this year, hospitals must also establish
new clinical alarm guidelines aimed to make certain that alarms on medical equipment are heard and responded
to on time.
As noted by the Joint Commission, “Alarms are intended to alert caregivers
of potential patient problems, but if they are not properly managed, they
can compromise patient safety. There is general agreement that this is
an important safety issue.”
Under the new guidelines, health care facilities must establish alarm management
as a priority, create a formal policy, and provide training for staff.
Hospitals are also required to identify the most important alarm signals
by assessing the risk to patients if staff members don’t respond
to an alarm right away, or if the alarm malfunctions.
Given the increased attention on hospital alarms, we are hopeful that hospitals,
nurses, medical device companies, and regulatory authorities will take
steps to address alarm fatigue and related safety concerns. In the meantime,
there are steps that you can take if you or a loved one is being treated
in the hospital.
- Never turn off an alarm. If an alarm is sounding, wait for a nurse to evaluate
the situation. If no one comes in a short amount of time, go seek help.
- Pay attention for signs that something might be wrong such as changes in
color, pain, or breathing.
- Ask questions: Don’t be afraid to ask nurses what the different alarms
mean, particularly which ones are most important.
If you or someone you care about has suffered serious harm due to an alarm
management error or other serious medical mistake, you may be entitled
to compensation. For more information, please contact
a San Diego medical malpractice attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage
for a free consultation.