Clinical alarms alert caregivers and hospital staff to critical changes in a patient’s physiologic condition, as well as to safety issues and device malfunctions, so that caregivers may intervene appropriately. Adverse alarm events are accidents waiting to happen, the results of a perfect storm in an error-prone system. Unfortunately, alarm events occur frequently. Recent news coverage in the Boston Globe pointed a high-profile spotlight at the very real dangers of alarm events. The Globe’s article highlighted cases which resulted in patient harm and death as well as ECRI Institute’s investigation of these events. Many alarm events are attributed to alarm fatigue, which continues to be a pervasive problem at most hospitals.

In honor of National Patient Safety Awareness Week, March 6-12, 2011, ECRI Institute is providing a free download of the full Risk Analysis, “Clinical Alarms.” This article, from ECRI Institute's Health care Risk Control System, discusses the following areas related to clinical alarms, which can assist risk managers in their patient safety efforts:

  • Joint Commission standards
  • Alarm-related incidents and user issues
  • Alarm solutions
  • Alarm-setting protocols
  • Specific strategies for ventilator alarms
  • Specific strategies for physiologic monitoring alarms
  • Alarm overload

In order to help health care organizations face the unique issues associated with clinical alarms, ECRI Institute is now offering systematic Alarm Management Safety Reviews. This service analyzes your facility’s current culture, infrastructure, practices, and technology to help you identify and address your patient safety vulnerabilities with realistic, implementable alarm management strategies.

ECRI Institute's Health care Risk Control System is a membership program that provides actionable recommendations, tools, sample policies and procedures, and many other sources of practical advice for minimizing risk and ensuring patient safety. For more information about Alarm Management Safety Reviews or the Health care Risk Control System, contact or call (610) 825-6000, ext. 5891.