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Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety: Four Technology Recommendations to Reduce Alarm Fatigue
Date:11/15/2012

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Cathy Carlson, PhD, RN (associate professor, Northern Illinois University School of Nursing & Health Studies) describes how she has seen alarms impact patient care, "It's amazing what nurses can tune out. Nurses get very tired of having to go again and again into a patient's room for false alarms. When this happens, caregivers may disable, silence, or even ignore alarms. These caregivers need to ask themselves what would happen if their patient experienced an adverse event or death, all because their failure to use a device or ignore an alarm. Instead of ignoring or not responding effectively to alarms, we need to use available technologies to reduce false alarms."

One of the recommendations is to use a smart alarm technology. "Smart alarms" can reduce the number of false alarms by taking into account multiple parameters, rate of change, and signal quality.

Cvach explains further. "Rather than using raw data, technology can base alarms on physiologic trends detected over a period of time. Signal filtering, algorithms, and/or artificial intelligence systems process alarms using filters or morphologic and timing differences to reduce the number of alarms."

Carlson provides an example where use of "smart alarms" could increase the use of patient monitoring, "Some physicians are preferring to use an IV push to administer opioids for pain management rather than PCA [patient-controlled analgesia] because the IV push does not require a capnograph monitor. As false alarms are often going off, these physicians see monitors as a hindrance to patient care. Using an IV push, however, not only ties up valuable nurses' time and resources, but PCA has been shown to have significant benefits including improved pain management, increased patient satisfaction, and better pulmonary function. Frankly, all patients receiving IV opioids should be monitored, but to
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SOURCE Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety
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