Patient safety goal aims to end clinical alarm fatigue

In an effort to make clinical alarm systems safer, the Joint Commission issued a new National Patient Safety Goal (NPSG), which requires accredited hospitals and critical access hospitals to improve their systems.

The Joint Commission announced that it will implement the alarm NPSG in two phases. The first phase, set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2014, aims to heighten awareness of the potential risks associated with clinical alarms, such as cardiac monitors, IV machines and ventilators. The second phase, which will begin Jan. 1, 2016, introduces requirements to mitigate those risks, according to the Joint Commission's R3 report.

The new goal came about after a number of reported deaths attributed to "alarm fatigue," a situation in which clinicians become overwhelmed by the sometimes hundreds of alarm signals each patient can put out every day, and turn down or turn off alarms outside of safe limits, the report states. The Joint Commission Sentinel Event database reported eight alarm-related deaths from 2009 to 2012, while the Food and Drug Administration database reported 566 deaths between January 2005 and June 2010, according to the report.

These concerns led to a summit in October 2011, where multiple health groups, including the Joint Commission, collaborated to find ways to immediately improve clinical alarm safety. A survey of more than 1,600 hospitals showed 90 percent of surveyed hospitals that alarm management was a safety issue and less than 50 percent had an organization-wide process for alarm management, the report states.

The Joint Commission proposed the NPSG in January, stating, "Alarms are intended to alert caregivers of potential patient problems, but if they are not properly managed, they can compromise patient safety," FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:

- here's the report
- check out the announcement