Hospitals are full of patients who are being closely monitored, nearly every minute of the day, from the time they are admitted to the time they are discharged and sent home. They are hooked up to machines that monitor their heart rates, blood pressure, and oxygen levels. Some are assisted in their breathing by other advanced machines and connected to machines that administer their medications on a timed basis.

All of these machines might have an alarm, or multiple alarms that signal different changes in a patient. Many of these alarms are insignificant or are as a result of a nurse or doctor making a change, meaning the medical staff just shuts them off. An overwhelming number of false-alarms in hospitals can lead to something that many call alarm fatigue.

This is when medical staff simply ignore alarms, because they assume it is an alarm that isn’t of significant value in assessing the patient’s well-being. Because every alarm should be considered important, a patient’s life might be put at risk if they are ignored, and unnecessary alarms might pose a medical malpractice risk.

Nurses, doctors and other medical staff should take each alarm seriously. Until technology develops to better learn between what should trigger an alarm, it is important that they are all investigated.

A growing number of reports of injuries or deaths from muted or ignored alarms is prompting accreditation organizations to warn hospitals about the need to increase awareness of alarm fatigue. Medical malpractice cases like this could occur right here in Louisiana if medical staff aren’t cautious, and may have already occurred.

Source: The Washington Post, “Too much noise from hospital alarms poses risk for patients,” Lena H. Sun, July 7, 2013