The Joint Commission has published an R3 report (“Requirement, Rationale, Reference”) outlining its forthcoming National Patient Safety Goal (NPSG) to deal with alarm systems.The report includes key references behind the development of the NPSG.

Phase 1 of the NPSG begins January 1, 2014 and builds awareness of the dangers of alarm fatigue and understanding of how current systems are managed. By Phase 2, starting January 1, 2016, hospitals must identify stakeholders, allocate responsibility for managing and changing alarm parameters, and educate staff on their duties.

The NPSG applies to critical equipment such as cardiac monitors, IV machines, ventilators, and other machines that emit visual or auditory signals. It does not cover information technology (IT) systems, nurse call systems, or computerized provider order entry (CPOE). 

Phase 1 directs hospitals to conduct a survey of their most important alarm systems based on input from medical staff and clinical departments and published standards. Considerations for future management should include patient risk if the alarm malfunctions, the facility’s internal incident history, and the necessity and frequency of given alarm signals. By 2016, hospitals must determine appropriate settings for each alert system and establish guidelines for when and how alarm parameters can be changed or disabled, as well as who has the authority to do so. Staff must then be trained on their relevant responsibilities.

To read the R3 report on alarm system safety, download it from The Joint Commission R3 Report website.