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Safety of Clinical Alarm Systems

clinical alarms safety

Safety of Clinical Alarm Systems

Clinical alarm management issues are consistently ranked as the top patient safety issue by many organizations.  Alarm hazards is listed as the number one hazard on the ECRI Institute’s 2015 Top 10 Health Technology Hazards list.

The Joint Commission addresses clinical alarm management issues with National Patient Safety Goal 6 which was effective January 1, 2014.  NPSG.06.01.01 requires hospitals and critical access hospitals to improve the safety of clinical alarm systems. This NPSG was implemented in two phases. The second phase of this goal was effective January 1, 2016.  Phase II requires accredited hospitals and critical access hospitals to have policies and procedures that address the following:

  • Defined settings appropriate for clinical alarms
  • Defined procedures for when clinical alarm parameters may be changed
  • When alarm signals can be disabled
  • Individuals authorized to set alarm parameters
  • Individuals authorized to change alarm parameters
  • Individuals authorized to set alarm parameters to off
  • Monitoring and responding to alarm signals
  • Checking individual alarm signals for accurate settings, proper functioning and detectability
  • Education and training of staff and licensed independent practitioners about the purpose and proper operation of alarm systems for which they are responsible

Hospitals are in need of resources to find solutions to clinical alarm management issues.  The AAMI Foundation’s National Coalition for Alarm Management Safety recently published, “…a framework that it believes will provide a “consistent roadmap” for hospitals trying to reduce the number of nonactionable alarms.”  The paper, “Framework for Alarm Management Process Maturity” has been published in Biomedical Instrumentation & Technology, May/June 2016.  The AAMI has also published “Clinical Alarm Management Compendium” which contains tips and practices that are being used by leading healthcare organizations.

Additional Tools:

MCN Healthcare’s Patient Safety Goals Reference Guide



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