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Personalized monitoring systems could reduce false alarms

December 10, 2014
by Richard R. Rogoski
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A study of 461 adults in the intensive care units of the University of California San Francisco Medical Center showed that many of today's monitoring systems are contributing to alarm fatigue among the clinical staff.

Assistant professor Jessica Zègre-Hemsey, PhD, RN, and her team looked at a subset of 12,671 arrhythmia alarms and discovered that 88.8 percent were false positives. 

Most of these false alarms, according to the researchers, were caused by deficiencies in the computer’s algorithms, inappropriate user settings, technical malfunctions and non-actionable events, such as brief spikes in heart rate.

One solution, Zègre-Hemsey said, is for vendors to design monitors that can be adjusted to a patient's unique vital signs and to develop a "gold standard" database of annotated alarms. 

"Current technologies have been instrumental in saving lives but they can be improved," Zègre-Hemsey said in a press release. "For example, current monitoring systems do not take into account differences among patients. If alarm settings were tailored more specifically to individuals that could go a long way in reducing the number of alarms health care providers respond to."