The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore has been at the forefront of alarm safety efforts since 2006, when staff first began gathering information on alarm types, frequency, and duration with an eye toward reduction. Since then, they’ve earned recognition across the industry—but their success isn’t just based on data.

“We’re letting people be creative and go out and do what they think works, then studying it,” said Maria Cvach, assistant director of nursing at Johns Hopkins.

Today, the hospital has met about 70% of its goals, with new efforts geared toward evaluating the role of ventilators, developing nurse-managed protocols for how long patients should remain on monitors, and exploring surveillance monitoring in pediatric units and for patients at risk of deterioration.

Cvach will discuss the changes, along with her colleagues Peter Doyle and Robert Frank, at the upcoming annual meeting for the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) in Philadelphia. A session titled “Integration of Alarm Notification Systems at The Johns Hopkins Hospital” will lay out the institution’s road toward effective management and what lessons other facilities can glean from the hospital’s experiences.

While Johns Hopkins’ research has put it 4 to 5 years ahead of hospitals that haven’t yet begun any internal evaluation process, Cvach says all facilities are on equal footing when it comes to seeking good data and educational tools for combating alarm fatigue. “I think we have done what we can with the monitors that we have, and now it’s up to industry to improve the options that are available. This is about integration of all data and making sure that it’s true, reliable, and accurate.”

The AAMI session will walk attendees through Johns Hopkins’ approach, with advice for how hospitals can improve notification, reduce false alarms, and prioritize tasks. According to Cvach, while each facility’s context is different, the presentation will focus on some generalizable lessons:

  • Reduce the overall alarm burden. Put in place reasonable filters based on workflow, unit design, and alarm priority.
  • Establish an escalation path so that important alarms aren’t missed if personnel don’t respond immediately.
  • Write policies that support your existing workflow, instead of altering workflow to fit new policies.

And Cvach has advice for vendors. Clinicians need educational tools, such as animated software, to learn how to use existing technology to its fullest capacity. In addition, hospitals shouldn’t need to employ middleware to retrieve data: devices should be able to easily deliver information themselves via robust reporting tools.

The session will take place at the AAMI Conference & Expo on June 1, from 2:30 to 3:45 pm. For more information on the conference, visit the AAMI website.

Jenny Lower is the associate editor for 24×7