Alarm fatigue is a widely acknowledged patient safety concern in hospitals. In 2013, The Joint Commission issued a National Patient Safety Goal on Alarm Management, making addressing alarm management a priority. To capture changes in attitudes and practices related to alarms, the Healthcare Technology Foundation conducted and reported findings from national online surveys in 2006 and 2011 and completed a third survey in 2016.
The goal of the 2016 survey was to identify how hospital practices and clinicians’ perceptions of alarms have changed since 2006.
The online survey was distributed via national health care organizations during a 2-month period. Results of the 2016 survey (N = 1241) were compared with results of the 2006 and 2011 surveys by using χ2 and Kruskal-Wallis analyses.
Responses were significantly different for almost all items across the 3 surveys. Respondents in 2016 were more likely to agree that nuisance alarms occur frequently and disrupt patient care and were less likely to agree that clinical staff responds quickly to alarms. Compared with respondents in 2011, those in 2016 were almost twice as likely to report that their hospitals had experienced adverse events related to alarms in the past 2 years. However, in 2016 a much higher proportion of respondents indicated that their hospitals had implemented alarm improvement initiatives.
Although survey findings show disappointing trends in the past 10 years, including worsening perceptions of nuisance alarms and more alarm-related adverse events, the increase in alarm improvement initiatives is encouraging.