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Across the country, hospital alarms are, well, alarming

On Behalf of | Mar 11, 2016 | Hospital Negligence

Where patient safety is concerned, more rather than less data trumps, right?

And in the sphere of hospital alarms, specifically, it must assuredly be the case that more beeping and chiming to alert nurses and other staff members of patient-related needs and concerns is preferable than ongoing silence, which quite literally mutes dangerous conditions.

Uh, not exactly. In fact, there is a widely acknowledged concern with hospital alarms in medical facilities across the country.

It turns out that too much of a good thing is, well, not a good thing.

In fact, it can be a very bad thing. So-called “alarm fatigue” has become, quite literally, a deadly serious problem in America’s hospitals.

And it’s easy to see why that is the case, given the virtual and nonstop onslaught of beeps and related noises that medical professionals are subjected to each day.

This might sound unbelievable, but one unit in a hospital that was profiled in a recent media article was reportedly experiencing about 12,000 alarms daily, until proactive efforts were taken to stifle the noise.

That noise can be truly dangerous, because human beings have a tendency to tune it out. And the implications of that are starkly frightening when, say, every 50th alarm beep signals a truly worrisome development that needs to be responded to immediately.

One chief medical officer and commentator on alarms says that they are “pervasive in almost any accident that occurs in a hospital.”

In the above-cited hospital unit, recent alarm-policy changes — including an authorization for nurses to unilaterally adjust alarms settings for different patients — have resulted in a stunning drop in alarms activating, from about 90,000 each week down to approximately 10,000.