Making alarms smarter is not just about reducing false alerts, but also about improving patient outcomes. That’s why clinicians are seeking new ways to optimize alarms — including customizing parameters and using data algorithms.
Here’s why: After implementing automated vital signs monitors at 12 general wards, one study found a 13 percent increase in survival rate.([FOOTNOTE=Bellomo R, Ackerman M, Bailey M, et al. A controlled trial of electronic automated advisory vital signs monitoring in general hospital wards. Crit Care Med. 2012;40(8):2349–2361. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0b013e318255d9a0.],[ANCHOR=],[LINK=]),†
Tailoring patient monitoring parameters — such as alert levels for heart rate and peripheral oxygenation — can reduce false alarms associated with default factory settings. One clinical team saw a 50 percent reduction in alarms after customizing thresholds.([FOOTNOTE=American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. Alarm management. Crit Care Nurse. 2013;33(5):83–86.],[ANCHOR=],[LINK=])
Preparing patient skin, maintaining lead cables, and changing electrodes can prevent alarms triggered by falsely perceived irregularities. One clinical team reduced average alarms per bed, per day by 46 percent.([FOOTNOTE=Cvach MM, Biggs M, Rothwell KJ. Daily electrode change and effect on cardiac monitor alarms: an evidence-based practice approach. J Nurs Care Qual. 2013;28(3):265–271. doi: 10.1097/NCQ.0b013e31827993bc.],[ANCHOR=],[LINK=])
Combining multiple sources of patient monitoring data into an algorithm can generate more robust vitals readings. In one study, connecting three heart rate sensors with a neural network algorithm reduced false alarms by 92.5 percent.([FOOTNOTE=Borges G, Brusamarello V. Sensor fusion methods for reducing false alarms in heart rate monitoring. J Clin Monit Comput. 2016;30(6):859–867. ],[ANCHOR=],[LINK=])
One study showed that wireless technology helped nurses respond to 62 percent of calls in less than a minute. Improved response times also helped reduce patient falls.([FOOTNOTE=Guarascio-Howard L. Examination of wireless technology to improve nurse communication, response time to bed alarms, and patient safety. HERD. 2011;4(2):109–120.],[ANCHOR=],[LINK=])
At the Children's National Medical Center, Washington, DC, one team integrated wireless communication devices with remote patient monitors. The change helped prioritize requests, triage calls, and manage code blue alarms.([FOOTNOTE=Turisco F, Rhoads, J. Equipped for Efficiency: Improving Nursing Care Through Technology. Published Dec. 2008. Accessed Jan. 29, 2012. ],[ANCHOR=California Health Care Foundation Website],[LINK=https://www.chcf.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/PDF-EquippedForEfficiency.pdf])
† Among patients transferred to a higher acuity ward following rapid response team treatment.