Photo courtesy of Texas Children's Hospital, Houston
The hospital partnered with Medical Informatics Corp., to help develop a new clinical alarm management system.

Texas Children’s Hospital, Houston, was named the winner of ECRI Institute’s 10th Annual Health Devices Achievement Award after the hospital revamped its alarm management program to refocus on patient care through data analysis.  

The winning submission, "Alarm Management Reboot," describes Texas Children's successful effort to improve patient safety by incorporating enterprisewide alarm management practices to make alarms more meaningful and actionable.

Spearheading the project, Texas Children's alarm management steering team started with a baseline analysis of the current alarm management program, according to ECRI Institute, Plymouth, Pa.

The hospital’s team also laid out the Joint Commission's National Patient Safety Goal into an action plan, which designated specific operations necessary to meet the phases of the patient safety goal.

Ultimately, Texas Children's partnered with Medical Informatics Corp., Houston, to develop an alarm dashboard — a system that allows the team to collect and analyze alarm data by care area, by nurse and by patient.

Simple changes soon progressed into patient-specific alarm dashboards that helped the care team to make decisions around alarm settings. The patient view shows the alarms per patient over a 24-hour period and provides data and recommendations on changes to alarm limits that could reduce alarm fatigue.

"We realized that substantive changes were needed to shift focus from the number of alarms, to actionable information based on an analytic dashboard," says John Weimert, director of biomedical engineering, Texas Children's.

"This project aligned people, technology and governance to meet the common goal of improving patient safety," he says.

In its submission to ECRI, Texas Children’s reported that the new data-based system caused an ongoing reduction in the number of alarms as staff adopted a team-based approach to make alarms more meaningful and actionable.

"With the Joint Commission's 2016 patient safety goal on the minds of hospital leaders, this project came at the perfect time," says ECRI Institute's David Jamison, executive director, health technology evaluation and safety. 

Jamison praises Texas Children's for revamping its alarm management program with an in-depth assessment of the environment at the patient's bedside.

"The actionable approach Texas Children's took to stop alarm fatigue provides a good example for hospitals nationwide," added Jamison.

Alarm management problems were second on ECRI's 2016 list of health technology hazards. ECRI cited staff failure to recognize and respond to an actionable clinical alarm condition in a timely manner and failure of a medical device to detect and communicate an alarm condition as typical alarm management system flaws. 

A formal award presentation will be made at Texas Children's this spring. Texas Children's award-winning strategy will be featured in an upcoming article on ECRI Institute's website.

ECRI Institute also recognizes four additional organizations that were selected as finalists for the 10th Annual Health Devices Achievement Award.

The technology management initiatives described by these organizations likewise earned praise from the award selection committee. They include:

  • Banner Health, Phoenix: "How a Safe Surgery Program Can Reduce Serious Reportable Events and Assist Supply Chain Decision-making for RFID Technology"
  • Boston Medical Center: "Clinical Alarm Task Force"
  • Cooper University Health Care, Camden, N.J.: "Partnership between Supply Chain and Process Improvement: An Optimal Structure"
  • University of Pittsburgh Medical Center: "Medical Equipment Fleet Analysis: An Objective and Centralized Approach to Equipment Replacement