Alarm Management as a Patient Safety Goal: Initial Considerations, Useful Resources

August 1, 2013 | Evaluations & Guidance


In a Sentinel Event Alert published in April of this year, the Joint Commission cited 98 reports of alarm-related events over a three-and-a-half-year period, with 80 of those events resulting in death and 13 in permanent loss of function.1 Then, on June 25, the organization issued a Prepublication Standards document establishing alarm management as a 2014 National Patient Safety Goal.2 The goal, which focuses on the management of “clinical alarm systems that have the most direct relationship to patient safety,” will be implemented in two phases:

To identify the alarm signals that warrant attention, as required in Phase 1, the Joint Commission directs hospitals to consider “input from the medical staff and clinical departments, risk to patients if the alarm signal is not attended to or if it malfunctions, whether specific alarm signals are needed or unnecessarily contribute to alarm noise and alarm fatigue, potential for patient harm based on internal incident history, and published best practices and guidelines.”

Because of the potential for patient harm, clinical alarm hazards have been featured prominently in ECRI Institute’s Top 10 list of health technology hazards every year since its inception. With the establishment of the new National Patient Safety Goal, healthcare facilities will soon be compelled to take steps to address these hazards. This article, the first in a multipart series, will help you...

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