CEO Perspective: Alert Fatigue, Interruptions Put Patient Safety at Risk

Key Learnings:

  • Clinicians are bombarded by noise and interruptions throughout their shifts. 
  • Interruptions in care put patient safety at risk 
  • Clinical collaboration platforms offers tremendous value in reducing alerts and interruption 

Alarm and alert fatigue isn’t a nurse-only issue – it impacts the entire care team. As a physician, continue to be increasingly concerned about the number of alerts, alarms, notifications and fragmented attempts at communication that distract and pull attention from care providers every day.  

For example, according to Journal of Medical Internet Research80-99% of alarms in hospital units are false or clinically insignificant. Meaning, clinician attention is being pulled for things that do not represent a real or present danger for patients. And, when clinician attention is pulled and they anticipate alerts to be insignificant, they end up missing warnings that are actually relevant and important – a consequence of alarm and alert fatigue that can lead to serious safety concerns.  

It’s pretty basic: if a physician is interrupted and their train of thought is interrupted, they lose focus, and they can make poor decisions. They can make mistakes.  

Interruptions aren’t entirely avoidable – and they should be expected to an extent. But our role as health technology companies is to help healthcare organizations sort through the mess. To bring order to the cacophony of noise currently being generated by different alerts, alarms and notifications. 

For example, a study on interruptions and care delivery in the intensive care unit found interruptions from device alarms and notifications were directly associated with increased delays in care and increased safety hazards.  

We have to help hospitals keep those interruptions to a minimum, but we also need to help quantify the extent of the problem. Technology, specifically clinical collaboration platforms (CCPs), can be invaluable in this effort. 


The power of the
 clinical collaboration to reduce interruptions and alarm and alert fatigue.

Based on my own experience leading organizations with physicians of different specialties, I know the power of collaboration. But collaboration today is often hampered by systems that aren’t designed for communication – increasing interruptions and alarm and alert fatigue 

The right clinical collaboration platform can help healthcare organizations establish a baseline of existing interruption – defining how often interruptions from alarms, alerts and notifications are occurring. It can also define what roles experience the greatest levels of interruption. 

Because, ultimately, the key to reducing alarm and alert fatigue and interruptions is evaluating who needs to receive which notifications, tying that information to a role (not person), and then standardizing those rules across the enterprise. 

For example, the right clinical collaboration platform can configure filtering of messages, alerts and notifications to ensure physicians (and other clinical staff) are only interrupted when it’s high priority, urgent or emergent. Unless information falls into one of those three categories, someone can review and react to the notification or alert at a later point in time.  

Additionally, the platform can filter interruptions based on roles and teams. For example, a physician who serves as part of the hospital oncology team and works in another role as part of an oncology specialty practice outside of the hospital doesn’t need to get all of the real-time alerts for the oncology team when he is not on call. He can sign out of the oncology team role, and another physician can receive the urgent alerts and updates during his or her shift.  

These efforts drastically reduce the numbers of alerts, alarms, and notifications clinicians battle, and the right platform can measure the impact of these interventions. It can compare the volume of alerts and notificationagainst the initial baseline – proving the value of limiting care disruption and, ultimately, reducing alert and alarm fatigue 


Final thoughts.
 

Halo Health has noted that battling the reality of alarm and alert fatigue is an ongoing effort, and we acknowledge the direction provided by organizations such as ECRI, The Joint Commission, and healthcare industry associations. The work involved with reducing alarm and alert fatigue and interruptions to care delivery is multi-faceted. 

Howevercan speak with certainty about the successes of clinical collaboration platforms in reducing alarm and alert fatigue and interruptions, because have seen the impact of our platform across multiple client campuses.  

Halo Health has established best practices around interrupted communication and interruptive collaboration, and we partner with our clients to marry our expertise with their unique communication needs.  

Healthcare organizations cannot afford to let alarmsalerts and notifications continue without order or structure. It puts their care teams and patients at risk. 

Learn more about alarm and alert fatigue.

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