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Constant noise from medical devices may lead to "alarm fatigue"

South Carolina patients and patients elsewhere may not be being given the treatment they need if hospital workers have "alarm fatigue." According to a hospital accrediting group, nonstop beeping from hospital monitoring devices may lead to workers tuning out the noises. This increases the chances that patients will not be treated in a timely manner and that medical malpractice may occur.

The group believes that, on average, at least 24 deaths a year occur due to alarm fatigue. However, according to reports from the FDA, the number may be far greater. Between January 2005 and June 2010, the FDA found links between 500 deaths and hospital alarms; however, the reports include equipment malfunctions, so the cause of death may not be related to alarm fatigue. 

Medical devices monitor a patient's heart rate and blood pressure, among other things, and beeps can indicate trouble or that a device isn't working. Since technology differs, different beeps mean different things depending on the device. Ignoring or misinterpreting an alarm can lead to a domino effect that leads to injury or even death to patients. According to the accrediting group, it is incumbent upon hospitals to train workers in safe alarm management.

When someone goes to a hospital for medical treatment, he or she should not have to worry that their doctor or a nurse will not provide them appropriate care in a timely manner. If someone has been injured due to a medical professional's negligence, he or she may want to speak with an attorney who could explain their legal rights.

Source: SCNow, "Hospital group says 'alarm fatigue' can be deadly," Lindsey Tanner, April 8, 2013 

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