“Alarm fatigue”

by Walter Olson on May 14, 2013

Trying to order medications for a heart attack victim using electronic medical records, White Coat is frustrated to run into screen after screen preventing him from completing the order without addressing unlikely allergy issues (and thus protecting the hospital from liability):

For those of you who don’t know what alarm fatigue is, think of a car alarm. The first time you hear it going off, you run to your window to see who’s breaking into a car. Maybe you run to the window the second time and the third time, too. By the tenth time the alarm goes off, you’re thinking that the alarm is broken and someone needs to get that fixed. After about thirty false alarms, you’re feeling like going out there and busting up the car yourself – especially if the car alarm wakes you when you’re asleep.

It’s a concept with many applications beyond the emergency room setting, too, product warnings being just the start.

P.S. Dr. Westby Fisher has some related thoughts about the limits of trying to engineer physician responsibility through electronic records design.

{ 2 comments }

1 Scott 05.14.13 at 11:25 am

Radiation Oncology has been using “ERM” for years and has been making headway on this issue. I look for papers in pubmed about patient safety and ERM as far as I can find there little out there.

2 Parker Phil 05.14.13 at 12:55 pm

My wife spent a long time in ICU. The alarms in her room were constant and universally ignored. I was hitting buttons every 30 seconds to cancel them.

Comments on this entry are closed.