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Top 10 Most Dangerous Hospital Hazards: Some May Surprise You

Alarm fatigue is the most dangerous of health care technology hazards, topping even radiation exposure and medication errors from infusion pumps, according to the updated Top 10 list offered by ECRI Institute.

It’s not surprising that alarm fatigue rang in at #1. There can be as many as 40 alarms an hour in some units. Staff modify alarm setting outside of safe parameters, can’t tell the alarm’s importance (or even which device is issuing it) or the alarm isn’t relayed to the paging system, according to ECRI Institute, a nonprofit organization focusing on patient-safety and cost-effectiveness in health care. Its report (registration required) is online. The report includes recommendations and resources for each of the 10 top hazards.

Staff may turn alarms off or down to reduce alarm fatigue, as well as reduce stress on the patient and family, the report notes. And properly setting alarms is complex to begin with, so ECRI offers best practices to reduce alarm fatigue while maintaining patient safety: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Hospitalist*

Too Much Data: Can It Overwhelm Doctors And Harm Patients?

One of the supposed strengths of electronic medical records is better tracking of test data. In theory, when using more sophisticated digital systems, doctors can better follow the mountains of test results that they encounter daily.

But a recent study, as written in the WSJ Health Blog, says otherwise. Apparently, a study performed in 2007 found:

VA doctors failed to acknowledge receipt of 368 electronically transmitted alerts about abnormal imaging tests, or one third of the total, during the study period. In 4% of the cases, imaging-test results hadn’t been followed up on four weeks after the test was done. Another study, published in March in the American Journal of Medicine, showed only 10.2% of abnormal lab test results were unacknowledged, but timely follow-up was lacking in 6.8% of cases.

Consider that the VA has what is considered the pinnacle of electronic systems — their unified, VistA program that permeates all their hospitals and clinics. Apparently the problem is one of alert overload:

Hardeep Singh, chief of the health policy and quality program at the Houston VA’s health and policy research center, led both studies. He tells the Health Blog that doctors now receive so many electronic alerts and reminders — as many as 50 each day — that the important ones can get lost in the shuffle.

This is not unlike the alarm fatigue issue that I recently wrote about. Too much data — whether it is written or on the screen — can overwhelm physicians and potentially place patients at harm. Curating test results by prioritizing abnormals will really be the true power of electronic test reporting.

*This blog post was originally published at*

Doctors And “Alarm Fatigue”: Potential For Patient Harm?

The hospital is never a quiet place. Walk through the wards on a typical day and you’ll hear a cacophony of alarms, bells, and other tones coming from both computers and medical equipment.

American Medical News recently discussed so-called “alarm fatigue.” They cite a study showing find that “16,934 alarms sounded in [a medical] unit during an 18-day period.” That’s astounding, and for those who are wondering, that’s about 40 alarms an hour.

It’s not surprising that doctors become desensitized to these alarms, and that has potential to harm patients, as physicians may miss legitimate, emergent findings. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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