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Alarm Fatigue In Hospitals: An Increasing And Dangerous Phenomenon

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Nurses and doctors hear alarms and buzzers go off all day long, and though the newbies tend to race to the scene at the first sign (or sound) of trouble, many veteran physicians do not. This is not to say that they do not make their way to the situation—just, that they tend to take their time about it. This is because, over the years, these doctors and nurses have learned that many alarms are false ones. This phenomenon is called alarm fatigue and it is becoming increasingly problematic in hospitals throughout the U.S. Like in the story with the little boy who cried wolf, when a real situation does arise and a doctor does not show up as expected, it can spell disaster for the patient. All too often, disaster can mean serious injury or even death.

Alarm fatigue is easy to combat—all a nearby nurse or doctor needs to do is check in on the scene and make sure that everything is okay. If it is not, they can page the physician and let them know that it is not a false alarm and that the patient needs help right away. Though false alarms may be frustrating for busy hospital staff, frustration is no excuse to not do one’s job properly. If you or a loved one suffered needlessly due to alarm fatigue, reach out to the Miami medical malpractice lawyers at Spencer Morgan Law right away. We can investigate the situation and make sure that justice is delivered—and that no other patient suffers from alarm fatigue again.

Why Alarm Fatigue is Such a Huge Deal

Nurses and doctors hear alarms and buzzers all day long, so it makes sense that after awhile, they all begin to blur together. It also makes sense that after running from one false alarm to another, a doctor or nurse may decide to “skip” an alarm here or there, assuming that like all the others before it, the situation will turn out to be fine. However, assumptions are dangerous in a normal setting—in a healthcare setting, they are downright negligent. The assumption that “everything is fine” is precisely what can land a doctor or nurse with a medical malpractice lawsuit, as it can lead to any number of issues, including but not limited to delayed treatment, failure to diagnose, cardiac arrest, and death.

Hospitals Combat Alarm Fatigue

Because alarm fatigue has become such a pervasive problem, many hospitals are taking measures to combat it by developing their own policies and procedures concerning alarms. However, the problem is a nationwide one, and as a result, the FDA and The Joint Commission got involved, with each proposing their own policies for preventing malpractice stemming from alarm fatigue. Some measures worth highlighting include:

  • Reconsidering how alarms will interact with one another;
  • Maintaining hospital equipment to prevent false alarms;
  • Providing healthcare providers with more training on what to do in the event of an alarm;
  • Teaching healthcare providers how to eliminate false alarms; and
  • Making sure that all hospitals and healthcare settings are properly staffed.

According to a report by the ECRI Institute, alarms proved to be the most hazardous medical technology in 2011. Over 500 patients died as a result of alarm fatigue and alarm misuse between 2005 and 2010. Though the proposed measures are certainly a step in the right direction, the healthcare industry has a way to go to eradicate the problem for good.

Retain the Help of a Miami Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you believe that yours or a loved one’s injury or untimely death was due to alarm fatigue, reach out to the Miami medical malpractice lawyers at Spencer Morgan Law for a free case evaluation today. If our team feels that you have a case, we will investigate the circumstances leading up to the incident and gather the evidence necessary to pin alarm fatigue as the cause. That said, fatigue or not, if medical malpractice is discovered, we will take the healthcare provider to court and ensure that you walk away with the compensation you deserve for your injuries, damages, or losses. Call 305-423-3800 to schedule a free consultation today.

Resources:

medcitynews.com/2012/03/alarm-fatigue-becomes-focus-of-fda-attention/

medcitynews.com/2011/11/top-10-health-technology-hazards-in-healthcare-facilities/

jointcommission.org/assets/1/18/SEA_50_alarms_4_5_13_FINAL1.PDF

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