Nursing News

Alarm Fatigue Focus of AAMI’s Horizons

The proliferation of clinical alarms poses one of healthcare technology’s most pressing patient safety challenges—“alarm fatigue.” While device alarms can improve medical care by arming clinicians with valuable information about their patient’s health, most are false or nonactionable, often resulting in a sensory clutter that overwhelms clinicians and caregivers, desensitizing them to the alerts. The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation’s spring 2017 issue of its award-winning, peer-reviewed publication, Horizonsfocuses on clinical alarm management.

“AAMI and the AAMI Foundation have made a strong commitment to focusing attention on the challenge of clinical alarm ‘pollution’ in healthcare settings—and working with a wide variety of experts to find meaningful solutions,” said Sean Loughlin, vice president of communications at AAMI. “Our latest edition of Horizons sheds light on some of those solutions developed by clinicians and healthcare technology professionals—and provides valuable insights on what more needs to be done.”

This issue of Horizons explores several approaches to minimizing nuisance alarms and improving clinical alarm management, including:

  • Using secondary alarm notification systems, such as middleware, to intelligently alert clinicians when a patient needs intervention, as could be the case for patients receiving opioids.
  • Examining how alarms should be classified from a variety of perspectives, including human factors professionals, semiotics (the study of signs and symbols) experts, clinicians, and patients.
  • Looking at the process industries (such as oil refining and non-nuclear power generation) for a model to manage clinical alarms.
  • Using nursing surveillance in combination with early warning scoring systems.
  • Developing a clinical alarms management committee at an academic medical center.
  • Managing mechanical ventilator alarms with middleware, and initiating cultural changes in a medical-surgical telemetry unit.

“We’ve seen considerable progress in addressing the challenge of clinical alarm fatigue, which has a direct impact on patient safety, as well as staff morale and effectiveness,” said Marilyn Neder Flack, senior vice president of patient safety initiatives at AAMI and executive director of the AAMI Foundation. “More hospital administrators are paying attention to the issue as are the professionals in the medical device industry. By working together, we can get closer to the day when we eliminate nuisance alarms, ensuring that all device alarms are ‘actionable’ and allowing nurses and doctors to better treat their patients.”

NACNS is a supporting organization for the spring 2017 issue of Horizons. Other supporting organizations include the American Association for Respiratory Care, the American Association of Critical-Care Nursesthe American College of Clinical Engineering, the Healthcare Technology Foundation and the National Patient Safety Foundation.

To access the issue, visit