Walk into almost any hospital emergency room or intensive care unit – and what do you hear? There is the almost constant whoosh-and-honk of the ventilator. There might be an infusion pump, beeping in a high-pitch tone every six seconds or so. Blood pressure monitors will let out one single long tone after another. All these medical devices contribute to something we as medical malpractice attorneys recognize as “alarm fatigue.”
Although all of these monitors have their purpose, most of the time they don’t require any action. When medical professionals (nurses, in particular) grow accustomed to this constant din of noise – sometimes several hundred alarms daily – they can grow desensitized to it. Others, to avoid becoming overwhelmed, may turn the volume down. Some might simply ignore them. This could have serious and possibly deadly consequences to patients.
Patient safety advocates and medical malpractice attorneys have been raising concern about this issue for many years. However, it’s become an increasingly more pressing problem as technology evolves and the medical device community emerges with an increasing number of complex, loud machines – all intended to save lives, but contributing to this alarm fatigue issue. Continue reading