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Top Health Safety Hazard is Alarm Fatigue

April 7, 2015
by Gabriel Perna
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The annual top patient safety concerns list from the ECRI Institute, a Plymouth Meeting, Pa.-based nonprofit, once again includes several tech-based items, including alarm fatigue from clinical decision support systems.

Alarm hazard has become a Top 10 Patient Safety Concerns for Healthcare Organizations mainstay. The institute says that inadequate alarm configuration policies and practices plague healthcare organizations in this area. Recently, the Joint Commission issued a Sentinel Event alert that profiled the issues healthcare organizations have with clinical alerts, specifically when practitioners miss an alert because of fatigue.

Another health IT related hazard is data integrity, which is incorrect or missing data in EHRs and other health IT systems. The institute says that these systems can present safety risks if it is not designed appropriately, implemented carefully, and used thoughtfully. In the area of health IT, the institute also says care coordination events related to medication reconciliation is another risk

“In addition to missed alarms that can result from excessive alarm activations, hospitals also have to be concerned about alarms that don't activate when a patient is in distress," Rob Schluth, senior project officer, ECRI Institute, said in a statement. "In our experience, alarm related adverse events—whether they result from missed alarms or from unrecognized alarm conditions—often can be traced to alarm systems that were not configured appropriately."

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