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Using Data to Drive Alarm Improvement Efforts

Alarm fatigue - the desensitizing of staff due to alarms - is all too common in hospitals.

“We in healthcare have created the perfect storm with all of these monitoring devices,” says Maria Cvach, RN, assistant director of nursing and clinical standards.

"In hospitals today, we have too many alarming devices. The alarm parameters are not set to actionable levels, and the alarm thresholds are set too tight. Monitor alarm systems are very sensitive and unlikely to miss a true event; however, this results in too many false positives. We have moved to large clinical units with unclear alarm system accountability; private rooms with doors closed that make it hard to hear alarms signals; and duplicate alarm conditions which desensitize staff.”

What Hopkins Is Doing About Alarm Fatigue

Starting in 2006, The Johns Hopkins Hospital has taken on several major initiatives to reduce hazardous situations related to alarm systems.

By relying on data to determine baseline alarm priority levels and then evaluating the effectiveness of improvement efforts, the alarm improvement effort greatly reduced noise in monitored units, made clinicians more attentive to the alarm signals that do sound, and worked to optimize both technology and workflow at every step in the process.

Improvements at The Johns Hopkins Hospital

Since the alarm improvement efforts began in 2006, The Johns Hopkins Hospital has seen:

  • A drop in total number of monitor alarm conditions and signals from monitors hospital-wide.
  • 43 percent reduction in high priority alarm conditions during an 18 day period – 16, 952 to 9,647 alarm conditions on a medical progressive care unit.
  • 24 to 74 percent reduction of alarm conditions on six ICU and IMC units analyzed pre and post default parameter change.
  • 47 percent reduction in total alarm conditions per bed per day on two pilot units performing daily electrode change.
  • Decrease in amount and duration of lead-fail and arrhythmia-suspend alarm conditions using disposable leads.

Learn More

  • Read the Using Data to Drive Alarm Improvement Efforts white paper.
  • Find out why ECRI Institute selected The Johns Hopkins Hospital for the 7th annual Health Devices Achievement Award.