Building on its work earlier this year, the ECRI Institute has unveiled its annual list of hospital safety hazards. The 2014 Top 10 Health Technology Hazards identifies alarm fatigue among the top dangers in a healthcare setting, alongside risks to pediatric patients from adult technologies and CT radiation exposure.
Alarm fatigue is broadly defined as caregiver desensitization and distraction caused by excessive numbers of alerts, or the inability to distinguish among similar sounding alarms. Alarm fatigue may also occur when devices fail to activate properly or provide inadequate information to allow caregivers to respond correctly. An April 2013 Sentinel Event Alert sponsored by the Joint Commission identified 98 incidents in which alarm fatigue played a key role, with 80 cases resulting in death and another 13 in permanent disability. The Commission has identified alarm fatigue as a National Patient Safety Goal for 2014.
Hospitals should also strive to minimize risk to children from “adult” technologies like CT scans, the Institute also found. Radiation exposure has been associated with increased cancer risk in pediatric patients. Hospitals should seek lower-dose alternatives like x-rays whenever possible.
A 16-page executive summary of the report is available for download on ECRI’s website.