As we reflect on the themes from National Patient Safety Awareness Week, it seems appropriate that we end the work week on an important and relevant topic to most US hospitals: device alarms. The frequency and number of alarms cause a sensory overload condition described as “alarm fatigue”: a desensitization to alarms created by the overwhelming number of alarms, many of which are nuisance or non-actionable alarms. In fact, alarm fatigue has been cited as the leading cause of sentinel events according to The Joint Commission, AAMI Foundation and other organizations. Hospitals still struggle to meet the 2014 and 2016 National Patient Goals to improve the management of those alarms.
As hospitals continue to automate vital sign documentation, they have begun to explore the universe of medical device data. And they are discovering that the near real-time use of a combination of physiologic data, therapeutic device settings, and alarm information can yield powerful innovations to patient safety; like alarm management. To that end, many institutions are implementing initiatives to address alarm fatigue through the use of Alarm Management Systems (AMS).
AMS’s are a perfect example of the power of medical device data to detect not only when an alarm condition has occurred, but also route the alarm, along with other relevant data, to the AMS for action. The AMS, in turn, can alert the clinician about pertinent events through notifications to smartphones or other communication devices. All that’s required is access to the medical device data to drive these applications.
This is where a Medical Device Information System (MDIS), like Capsule’s SmartLinx MDIS, the product of an emerging technology, plays a key role in providing timely alarm and device data to any AMS. SmartLinx normalizes data to ensure consistent labeling of alarm conditions across devices and manufacturers. Additionally, it ensures proper context is associated with the alarm, such as device type and patient / location information and then sends that data the AMS. This ability to timely communicate the full range of device data surrounding an alarm enables a healthcare IT system to interpret the alarm in a clinical context and prioritize clinician alerts—if an alert is, in fact, required. Just as important, it’s another example of the power of medical device data to help improve the delivery of patient care.
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