TODAY'S PAPER
43° Good Afternoon
43° Good Afternoon
NewsHealth

Hospital group warns of 'alarm fatigue'

CHICAGO -- Constantly beeping alarms from devices that monitor the vital signs of the critically ill have "desensitized" hospital workers who sometimes ignore the noise, leading to at least two dozen deaths a year on average, a hospital accrediting group said Monday.

And these cases are probably vastly underreported, said the Joint Commission in an alert to hospitals calling attention to the problem.

Some devices beep when there's an emergency, and some beep when they're not working. That can lead to noise fatigue and the delay in treating a patient can endanger lives, the accreditation commission says.

Complicating the situation is the abundance of technology, with no standardization for what the beeps mean, said Dr. Ana McKee, the commission's executive vice president and chief medical officer.

The commission's estimate of possible deaths related to the problem is considerably lower than the reports it found in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration database. The FDA lists more than 500 deaths potentially linked with hospital alarms between January 2005 and June 2010. But that includes mandatory reports of malfunctions and in some cases the connection to a death is only tenuous. -- AP

A note to our community:

As a public service, this article is available for all. Newsday readers support our strong local journalism by subscribing.  Please show you value this important work by becoming a subscriber now.

SUBSCRIBE

Cancel anytime

A note to our community:

As a public service, this article is available for all. Newsday readers support our strong local journalism by subscribing.  Please show you value this important work by becoming a subscriber now.

SUBSCRIBE

Cancel anytime

Health