Boston Medical Center Reduces Cardiac Unit Alarms by 89%: Here's How They Did It

A series of interventions aimed at reducing clinically insignificant alarms in the cardiac unit helped Boston Medical Center reduce audible alarms by 89 percent, with no adverse events attributed to the changes, according to an article in the Agency for Healthcare Research Quality's Health Care Innovations Exchange.

Boston Medical Center implemented the following interventions:

1. Expansion of default parameters that trigger heart rate alarms.
2. Elevation of heart rate alarms from warning to crisis status.
3. Addition of audible alarm for atrial fibrillation episodes.
4. Parameter changes for individual patients.

The average number of weekly alarms on the cardiac unit fell by 89 percent, from 87,823 during the two weeks prior to implementation of the initiative to 9,967 per week during a six-week pilot test of the initiative. Also, surveys of cardiac unit patients during the seven months before and after the pilot found significant improvements in overall patient satisfaction.

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