The Effects of Alarm Fatigue on Nurses and HCAHPS Scores

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In the old days, both celebrities and business tycoons would “check” themselves into the best hospitals to relax and replenish themselves from the stress of their hectic lives. The news channels would feature a story about Zsa Zsa or Liz being admitted to Sloan-Kettering for a “Work-Up”. Those days and news items are gone forever, along with the celebrities they described. It seems preposterous today to think that any sane human being who has ever walked down the halls of our current medical institutions would think of them as a place to go to replenish or relax. In fact, just the opposite is true. The thought of having to be “admitted” is last on most folks’ list of a fun time. The mental image includes people in white coats and scrubs talking in terms that are completely foreign, equipment that is completely foreign, and the never-ending sound of alarms beeping providing a background symphony sure to keep you from getting any sort of relaxation or replenishment. This is a major problem in our current medical arena, and one that Curbell Medical is uniquely positioned to address.

False alarms create an atmosphere in which nurses with extensive numbers of tasks to perform spend large amounts of their precious time running to respond to alarms that are the result of equipment failure, not a medical emergency. The result is what has been described as “alarm fatigue,” a phenomenon which has been the subject of a great deal of research and concern, as it has resulted in patient deaths. The noise level also has had a profound impact on HCAHPS scores, which impact financial reimbursement to medical facilities. Noise/alarm fatigue/mortality/patient satisfaction/financial bottom line  ̶  certainly, investing in products that will help resolve these issues is a concern for every hospital administrator.

Some of the questions asked on the patient HCAHPS survey include:

  1. How often during this hospital stay did nurses treat you with courtesy and respect?
  2. During this hospital stay how often did nurses listen carefully to you?
  3. During this hospital stay how often did nurses explain things in a way you could understand?
  4. During this hospital stay, after you pressed the call button, how often did you get help as soon as you wanted it?
  5. During this hospital stay, how often was the area around your room quiet at night?

Although only the last question was directly related to noise level, the rest of the questions are related to nurse-patient interaction, which depends on the amount of time available for nurses to spend time with patients, instead of chasing down false alarms. A research team at a Children’s Hospital determined that clinicians heard an alarm on an average of every 66 seconds in the hospital’s neonatal ICU. This team conducts a monthly survey of the number of alarms and response times. Unnecessary alarms translate into time lost from patient care, staff alarm fatigue, lower HCAHPS scores and ultimately, loss of revenue. Curbell Medical is here to help you meet these difficult challenges for your patients, staff, and medical facility. We offer fall management alarms that can be seamlessly integrated with your nurse call system, eliminating audible alarms in the patient room, while still notifying the staff of a potential patient fall.