Dr. Leah Baron on Alarm Notification Systems and Identifying Actionable Alarms and Preventing False Alarms

Leah Baron, MD, who is Chief of The Department of Anesthesiology at Virtua Memorial Hospital, recently spoke with the Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety (PPAHS) in a clinical education podcast about the experience of Virtua Memorial Hospital in improving patient safety and reducing alarm fatigue.

Dr. Baron says that what began as a project to implement capnography monitoring to address opioid-induced respiratory depression quickly turned into a project to reduce nuisance alarms when monitoring resulted in too many false alarms:

“when we first introduced capnography to monitor patients for respiratory depression related to their opioid therapy, we very quickly found out that the amount of alarms that were bombarding our health care workers was unmanageable. And, the reality was that they could not respond to all of them, but a lot of them were just pure noise. And, that’s why we realized that if we want to use this effectively, we needed to figure out how to identify these actionable alarms and filter the noise, and that’s why, subsequently, we decided that we’re going to do another study and see if we can achieve better results with that.”


Dr. Leah Baron

By connecting capnography to middleware, Virtua Memorial Hospital has been able to distinguish between actionable and non-actionable alarms and help them to escalate the actionable alarms when they occurred. As Dr. Baron describes:


“So, we selected patients with what we thought have a higher chance of having this respiratory depression – patients with significant serious sleep apnea undergoing major surgery. And, we created these algorithms that we wanted to test on our med-surg floors and see if they meet our expectations. So, that was our goal in this study. And, we actually were able to significantly reduce our alarms, without having a single patient event that went unnoticed.”

Details of Dr. Baron’s study have been recently published in AAMI’s Biomedical Instrumentation and Technology magazine in the article, “Continuous Surveillance of Sleep Apnea Patients in a Medical Surgical Unit.”

Featured in the podcast with Dr. Baron are: 

  • Maria Cvach, DNP, RN, FAAN  is director of policy management and integration for Johns Hopkins Health System; and
  • Marc Schlesinger (Senior Associate, ECRI Institute’s Applied Solutions Group).
Improving Patient Safety and Reducing Alarm Fatigue: The Right and Wrong Way to Use Continuous Surveillance Monitoring
Improving Patient Safety and Reducing Alarm Fatigue: The Right and Wrong Way to Use Continuous Surveillance Monitoring

The podcast may be listened to on the PPAHS YouTube channel by clicking here.

The clinical education podcast was made possible by an unrestricted educational grant from Bernoulli Health.

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