Walk into any busy hospital in Philadelphia or elsewhere in Pennsylvania and you will instantly hear alarm sounds all over the place. Or watch any TV series about doctors on Netflix to hear these beeps in the background. While the purpose of these alarm sounds is to alert doctors of emergencies and deterioration in a patient’s medical condition, the vast majority of these clinical alarms are false.
Fact: According to a 2013 study, between 72 and 99 percent of these alarm sounds are false.
As you can imagine, such a high number of false alarms in hospitals can result in medical professionals growing indifferent to and purposely ignoring these alarms over time. Experts and lawyers alike even came up with the term “patient alarm fatigue” to describe this phenomenon.
Obviously, doctors have a duty to respond to all alarm sounds, which means this “alarm fatigue” cannot be used as an excuse for a medical professional’s failure to respond in a timely manner thinking that the alarm was false or accidental. In other words, if you suffered harm or someone you loved died as a result of alarm fatigue, you may be able to sue negligent and careless doctors and the hospital under the legal theory of medical malpractice.
Our Philadelphia hospital patient alarm fatigue attorney from The Weitz Firm, LLC, explains that failure to urgently respond to alarm sounds or growing desensitized and indifferent to these clinical alarms and missed alarms is a clear breach of duty on the part of hospital staff.
In pretty much all hospitals in Philadelphia and all across Pennsylvania, alarms can be found on the vast majority of medical devices at the bedside to alert doctors of any changes in the patient’s condition or the functioning of the device. Several studies have shown that in some cases, there can be as many as 300 alarm sounds per patient within a 24-hour period. That’s quite a lot of beeping to cause sensory overload.
“However, being exposed to an excessive number of alarm sounds in the hospital does not limit the duty of care of nurses, doctors, and other members of hospital staff,” warns our experienced alarm fatigue attorney in Philadelphia. Alarm sounds exist for a reason. And that reason is to alert members of hospital staff when a patient’s condition is deteriorating or when the medical device is not functioning properly.
A sound alarm can go off not only when the patient’s condition has deteriorated, but also when an intravenous medication has run out or the medical device’s connection has become loose or when the battery needs to be recharged or replaced.
For example, in a disturbing medical malpractice case, no medical professional responded to an alarm sound that sounded for about 75 minutes and signaled that one of the batteries on a medical device attached to a patient needed to be replaced. After the battery died, the patient went into cardiac arrest, but since the battery was not replaced in time, no alarm sounded to alert members of hospital staff. A few hours later, the patient was found unresponsive and the doctors’ attempts to resuscitate the patient were futile.
What also contributes to the alarm fatigue problem is that medical devices can be too sensitive and cause the alarm to go off when the patient moves, turns over in the bed, or even coughs.
In many cases, nurses and other members of hospital staff only respond to the faster and higher-pitched sounds, which indicate the highest-level crisis alarms. However, there have been cases where doctors missed or failed to promptly respond to life-threatening alarm sounds as well.
If you suffered harm due to doctors or other members of hospital staff ignoring alarm sounds or failing to urgently respond to alarm sounds, you may want to consult with a Philadelphia alarm fatigue lawyer from The Weitz Firm, LLC. Get a free consultation by calling our offices at 267-587-6240.