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Which Alarm Do I Answer First? Alarm Fatigue Solutions for Nursing Staff

March 31, 2015

If you received five text messages at the same time, would you know which ones you needed to respond to quickest based on the sound of the alarm alone?

Unfortunately, many nurses in National Health Service (NHS) hospitals in the UK face that challenge exponentially as they have to answer hundreds of daily alarms per bed. The alarm tones of a nurse call system when a patient would like a glass of water, and the one from a patient monitor signaling deteriorating health are incredibly similar. From my experience walking among the wards at a number of NHS hospitals (also called trusts), alarm fatigue is a big challenge for nurses, and it can lead to patients waiting longer than they would like when they request help. In some cases, delays in care can even result in patient harm. There are solutions that can help, and I’ve been having more conversations lately with trusts in the UK about ways to address this concern.

Using Spok’s clinical alerting and secure texting solutions to manage, send, and receive bedside alerts can help ensure each nurse receives notifications only from patients under their care. This alone will cut out a huge number of alerts and can help reduce alarm fatigue. In addition, trusts are interested in learning more about how we can help them filter alarms based on priority.

Using a trust’s pre-set priority levels and the logic built into the system, our secure texting app will route alerts directly to the appropriate on-duty provider’s mobile device with different alarm sounds for high, medium, and low priority notifications. This helps nurses know right away if the alert is urgent, such as a V-fib alert, or if it is a lower priority request, just by the sound coming out of the device.

A few changes to mobile workflows in a ward can make nurses much more efficient, as well as improve patient satisfaction and safety. Adding a new solution, such as alarm delivery to mobile devices with priority settings, doesn’t require a complete overhaul of your IT infrastructure either. These solutions can integrate with the technology you already have in place. Is your NHS trust looking at clinical alerting to improve efficiencies? Are there initiatives at your institution to combat alarm fatigue? I’d be keen to hear from you! Leave a comment below or write to us directly.

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Staff Efficiency

By Eric Graves, Regional Sales Director, United Kingdom and Northern Europe
Based in the UK, Eric has sold software solutions to the NHS for over six years and has seen the growth in the NHS’ desire to move toward a more mobile and efficient workforce. He is helping trusts find solutions in this area to help these and other critical communication projects.