Would reduction of medical alarms reduce deaths at hospitals?

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Alarms are used in many different ways to alert individuals that something is wrong. One of the fields in which they are regularly used is medicine. Whenever a patient is hooked up to a machine, it is possible that there is an alarm tied to it. Machines may make one noise when things are possibly going wrong and another when a patient needs help immediately. While in theory the use of alarms may seem like a good idea, in practice this is not always the case.

An issue that arises with alarms on medical machines is the nearly constant noise they make. Because there are so many alarms going off at any given time, it is difficult for healthcare providers to determine when an alarm is actually signaling an emergency. This is called “alarm fatigue.” In the worst cases alarm fatigue could result in the death of a patient. In other instances someone may be serious injured.

One hospital located in another state has take steps to reduce the number of preventable incidents that occur as a result of alarm fatigue. While the alarms that indicate a serious problem are still on, others have been turned off. Its successful results were recently published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing.

When a patient is injured as a result of alarm fatigue or any other medical mistake, it is possible that the patient will decide to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. If someone dies, the family of the deceased patient may bring the lawsuit. While for some people recovering financial damages for the harm inflicted is helpful, it can never undo what was done.

Source: National Public Radio, “Silencing Many Hospital Alarms Leads To Better Health Care,” Richard Knox, Jan. 27, 2014