Healthcare providers know all too well how frustrating it can be to receive alert after alert when they so often seem to be false alarms. And while these alerts may be frustrating, they highlight a more pressing concern – alarm fatigue.
In the realm of healthcare, alarm fatigue refers to the desensitization to alarms and alerts from various health systems including electronic health records and pagers. This happens because care providers receive incredibly high volumes of alarms that are oftentimes unactionable. The presence of alarm fatigue in healthcare settings can pose major consequences that put patient safety in jeopardy.
When experiencing alarm fatigue, care providers may become careless through no fault of their own. It is common that those who are challenged with alarm fatigue will begin to miss, delay, or even ignore critical notifications. This does not come from lack of care, it comes from the desensitization to alarms. Unfortunately, this puts patients who need time-sensitive care at risk, because they are not immediately receiving the care that they need.
Since alarm fatigue can have extremely negative impacts on patient care, it is important that healthcare teams are aware of this phenomenon and educate their staff on ways to help mitigate its effects. Some practices that should be considered are:
If a staff member is experiencing alarm fatigue, it is crucial that they are encouraged to speak up about it, so that the impact on patient care can be minimized. Management should create an environment that empowers care providers to communicate in order to maximize the quality of patient care.
Some healthcare staff members may be unaware of alarm fatigue and its impacts, so it is important that sessions are scheduled to familiarize healthcare staff with its impacts. This will help healthcare teams to be more self-aware and quickly identify alarm fatigue, so that they can take mental breaks.
Care providers should be encouraged to take regular breaks so that they can briefly escape the alarm environment. By taking breaks, care providers are able to reduce alarm fatigue and refresh their mind, ensuring that they are ready to provide the best quality of care.
There should be resources for staff members who are experiencing alert fatigue so that they do not burnout. This could include providing effective coping mechanisms or allowing extra time off during hard times.
While the previously mentioned practices can help reduce the effects of alarm fatigue, they should not be considered long-term solutions. Healthcare organizations must employ modern technologies that can eliminate alarm fatigue by providing robust features that include:
With the ability to prioritize alarms, healthcare teams can reduce the amount of alarms that care providers receive. These alerts can be categorized based on urgency, so that care providers know when an alert is time-sensitive.
Oftentimes, physicians are notified about patient emergencies, but do not receive details until they are on the scene. Many modern technologies offer HIPAA compliant messaging, which allows teams to deliver detailed messages that allow physicians to make prompt decisions about patient care.
It is crucial that healthcare organizations choose technologies that integrate with their current systems to reduce alarm noise and ideally, provide mobile accessibility to high-priority alarms.
As artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and features are being introduced to multiple fields, it is important to discuss its anticipated impacts. Alarm fatigue is faced by numerous healthcare professionals, and there have already been efforts to improve it with AI. For example, The Journal of Medical Internet Research released a paper describing how researchers used AI to reduce alarms by 99.3%. The algorithm used by researchers delivers grouped alarms whenever possible to reduce the volume of alarms received by healthcare professionals, thus minimizing alarm fatigue. There are many other ways that AI is being experimented with in the field of healthcare that will improve patient care by minimizing the amount of missed or ignored alarms by care providers experiencing alarm fatigue.
While AI can allow teams to take new and exciting approaches to existing challenges, it is important to note that it will still take time to ensure the accuracy and security of such features.
OnPage is an innovative clinical communication and collaboration tool that enables teams to eliminate alarm fatigue and ultimately, deliver optimal patient care.
Some of OnPage’s features that help minimize alarm fatigue are:
With OnPage, healthcare teams can securely collaborate on patient cases without worrying about risking patient confidentiality. They can deliver contextual messages allowing physicians to obtain detailed information about patient conditions, so that they can better prioritize their duties. Additionally, OnPage provides two-way messaging where, unlike pagers, they can digitally communicate in real-time, minimizing the possibility of miscommunication.
To mitigate the impacts of alarm fatigue, prioritizing alarms is crucial. OnPage allows teams to categorize alarms, so high-priority alarms cut through the clutter and effectively mobilize care providers to patient emergencies.
When teams are off-duty and still receiving alarms on their mobile devices or pagers it can rapidly increase the effects of alarm fatigue. That’s why OnPage allows healthcare teams to mute off-duty care providers who would otherwise be bombarded with irrelevant alarms.