What is that annoying beeping in the background of your daily rounds? You often probably don't even notice the frequent beeping and buzzing of one of the multiple alarms around you every day. After all, you learned early on that, commonly, a loose connection, poor contact with the patient, or one of many other factors is typically responsible for a false positive alarm. You, colleague, have experienced alarm fatigue, and this phenomenon is challenging because we learn to ignore the very alarms that are supposed to alert us to patient issues. Here's information to raise your awareness on alarm fatigue and, like me, you may question: "how can we develop better, more reliable alarms?"
The danger of alarm fatigue comes from desensitization to alarms and an increased likelihood that providers will miss or ignore an alarm, resulting in a negative outcome. Most estimates categorize at least 85 percent of alarms as false positives. Although not always reported outside of the individual organizations, the Joint Commission’s Sentinel Event database included 98 reported events involving alarms over a 3.5 year period, of which over 80 percent resulted in the death of a patient.