Joint Commission Warns About Dangers From Alarm Fatigue

Maureen McKinney | | April 8, 2013

The nation's largest hospital accreditation organization has issued a warning to hospitals about the dangers of alarm fatigue, which can occur when clinicians become desensitized to the incessant beeping of medical device alarms.

In a Sentinel Event Alert (PDF) issued Monday, the Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.-based Joint Commission cautioned that such alarm systems—embedded in a wide range of hospital devices, including ventilators, blood pressure monitors and infusion pumps—could actually compromise patient safety if they beep too often or sound too similar to one another.

The Joint Commission's Sentinel Event database, which tracks serious safety-related events, contains reports of 98 alarm-related events between January 2009 and June 2012, including 80 deaths and 13 serious injuries, the organization said in the alert.