Technology Wish List for Reducing ‘Alarm Fatigue’ Introduced at Society for Technology in Anesthesia Annual Meeting

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The Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety presented a technology wish list for reducing "alarm fatigue" at the Technology in Anesthesia Annual Meeting.

Multi-parameter alarms vs. single parameter .. improve alarm specificity and decrease the false alarm rate

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As a National Patient Safety Goal of The Joint Commission, “alarm fatigue” – which occurs when hospitals staffs become desensitized, overwhelmed or distracted by the myriad patient alarms that sound off around them each day – is now one of the most widely discussed issues in the healthcare.

The dialogue continued at the Society for Technology in Anesthesia (STA) Annual Meeting held Jan. 15-18 in Orlando, where along with presenting First National Survey of Patient-Controlled Analgesia Practices, Michael Wong, Executive Director of the Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety (PPAHS) introduced a “Technological Alarm Awareness Wish List”.

Prepared with the help of Maria Cvach, DNP, RN, CCRN (Assistant Director of Nursing, Clinical Standards, The Johns Hopkins Hospital), the wish list – aimed at reducing alarm fatigue and improving alarm management among the nation’s hospitals -- calls for:

  •     Single Assessment Indicator: Multi-parameter alarms vs. single parameter to improve alarm specificity and decrease the false alarm rate
  •     Standardize Alarm Sounds: Standardization of alarm sounds across similar devices (all vents sound the same, all monitors have the same sounds, etc.)
  •     Pause Before Alarming: Slight delays to eliminate nuisance alarms that auto-correct – example ST alarms delayed by 2 minutes prior to sending an alarm
  •     Electrode/Skin Interface: Simple way for staff to determine if electrode/skin interface is good
  •     Escalation of Alarm Levels: Escalation of alarm levels based on quantity/or change in alarm pattern (i.e. patient has a sudden increase in the number of PVCs; HR suddenly goes down from 90s to 60s)
  •     “Smarter” IV Pumps: IV pump that can be smart enough to know when a critical med is infusing and alarm sound is different and more urgent
  •     Device Interoperability: Interoperability among multiple devices
  •     Alarm Integration: Ancillary notification system that integrates all alarms within the patient room to a single device (highly accurate; no more than 3-4alerts/hour)
  •     Multi-Function Wireless Device: Wireless device that is reliable, not heavy, can do multiple functions (barcode, Wi-Fi, text, phone, good battery life, few dropped calls, easy alarm escalation and alarm acknowledgement)


The Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety (PPAHS) is an advocacy group dedicated to improving patient health and safety. PPAHS seeks to advance key patient health and safety initiatives that significantly impact patient lives and to do so in a prescriptive and practical manner by endorsing and publicizing health expert opinion that is supported by healthcare organizations and medical societies, surveying healthcare professionals to determine current practices and using these responses to encourage improvement, sharing best practices to encourage their spread and adoption, developing safety checklists and recommendations, and advocating for the adoption of standards to help eliminate adverse events. For more information, please go to

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