Every year, over 560 people die to what is known as alarm fatigue. This is the reported figure, some estimates put the actual number at closer to 5,600. An insane number, when you realize that these are people in a hospital.
What is alarm fatigue? Basically, it comes down to the fact that about 88% of alarms triggered throughout hospitals are false, leading to a ‘cry wolf’ situation where nurses tone down or outright ignore the alarms, leading to the above mentioned figures.
Alarm fatigue has been rated among the top ten causes of death in hospitals, leading to a not inconsiderable effort to find ways to at least reverse this trend, if not to end it outright.
Among the possible solutions put forth was to place humans back in charge of tracking patients conditions, as opposed to letting alarms try and do it. How is this possible, you ask? Well, by placing technicians at monitoring stations that are able to continuously track data from up to 48 patients at once, enabling trained professionals to make judgment calls about what they are seeing rather than having overworked nurses make guesses about the validity of an alarm that is going off.
A test run of this program was done by Dr. David Cantillon, a researcher at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. During this study (test run), Dr. Cantillon and his colleagues examined outcomes for more than 99,000 heart patients at the Cleveland Clinic and three nearby regional hospitals who were monitored remotely.
The results? Over 79 percent of alerts were genuine, and there were no missed cases on the part of the technicians. Additionally, there was also a 16 decrease in the amount active patient care that was needed, a tremendous and much needed lightening of the workload. Overall, that seems to be an excellent response to alarm fatigue, by addressing the issue at its root.
Apparently, the answer would seem to be ‘yes’.
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