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St. Joseph Hospital Combats Alarm Fatigue and Improves Patient Safety

In 2015, St. Joseph Hospital performed an analysis of clinical alarms for one of their telemetry units. The single, 32-bed unit generates about six million visual and audio alarms annually, equivalent to three million patient events, which outnumbers the actual amount of interventions the hospital performed. The telemetry alarm estimation—including other telemetry units, intensive care, and the emergency department—was nearly ten million alarms annually.

Recognizing the over-generated alarms problem, an interdisciplinary team was formed and focused on the following improvements: risk-stratifying and categorizing alarms by severity; changing nursing practice for lead placement to improve signals; having clinical experts educate staff on the importance of alarm management; and drafting policies and procedures with frontline personnel to promote sustainability.

Implementation of this initiative resulted in improvements in alarm generation and quietness of environment—without jeopardizing patient care—measured by the number of transfers to a high level of care. Non-critical clinical alarms per patient day decreased by 39%, and there was a 26% improvement in the patient experience of care “Quietness of Room at Night” question, compared to the six months prior to implementation.