How can we help improve the daily life of physicians whose work involves having to deal with so many sound alarms? And how can we determine how critical each alarm really is? Jean-Baptiste Michon, Product Marketing Manager at ENOVACOM, explains how modern biomedical device alarms work and what benefits technology can provide.
What problems can sound alarms give hospital workers on a daily basis?
Jean-Baptiste Michon: Physicians are evolving in an environment which is constantly filled with all kinds of alerts. Medical device alarms go off more than anything else. They either send information which must be dealt with straight away as it could mean the difference between life or death, or less urgent information like informing staff about minor technical problems such as where patients are or if a sensor has been unplugged. As things stand, physicians are unable to tell which alerts are more critical than others. The same is true of patients not knowing when to activate alarms in their rooms and, as a result, end up doing so too often.
Can’t these sound alarms harm healthcare professionals in the long run?
J-B. M.: Since the 1960s, the average sound level has increased from 57 to 72 dB during the day, and from 42 to 60 dB at night. We understand that this poses an occupational health hazard as any sound over 80 dB can cause hearing loss and it takes time for workers to react when alarms do go off. It is therefore important to think about, on the one hand, how to differentiate the levels of critical information issued by medical devices and, on the other, set up an Alarm Management system to make sure that the right people get the right information at the right time.
The aim here is to reduce the sound frequency/how often alarms go off while focusing on alerts about life-threatening situations and making sure that physicians only have to deal with the right alarms. The ENOVACOM Surycat technology is a very good example of how to make daily alarm management simpler.
How can technology help in this context?
J-B.M.: First off, it must address the problem caused by how medical devices (MDs) are structured. Most of them only have one output to transmit any type of data. Vital data is often automatically collected by a specialty file (e.g. in resuscitation). Unfortunately, these applications do not pay attention to the different configuration settings or the alarms themselves. To deal with this issue, healthcare organisations need a central system that centralises all the data. This is known as a ‘dedicated application bus’ and regroups all the information transmitted by the MDs. A ‘Biomedical EAI’ such as ENOVACOM Patient Connect is then responsible for transferring the data to the appropriate recipients: resuscitation files for vital data or Alarm Management systems such as ENOVACOM Surycat for alarms. We could even envisage sending some data to be used by third-party systems and, in doing so, head towards ‘Big Data’.
Not every alarm is important. How do you decide which ones are critical?
J-B. M.: These settings are defined by the health professionals themselves. It is up to them to judge how important the information is and decide how critical different alerts are. Data processing workflow can also be arranged according to certain criteria. Some reports may be set to not be transmitted whereas when life-threatening situations arise, the Alarm Management solution will keep sending signals to several previously-designated individuals until one of them switches the alarm off.
Is the ENOVACOM Surycat Alarm Management solution compatible with any medical device?
J-B.M.: Absolutely. The ENOVACOM Surycat is fully interoperable and can handle any type of alert from any device. This workflow engine meets all standardised protocol requirements to manage alarms intelligently based on the desired frequency, how critical the situation is, the relevant person, etc. The same logic applies to vital data flows when linking up MDs and specialty folders. The bottom line is that any type of data needs to have a structured IT system with central interoperability solutions. The end goal is to organise data flows so that physicians can communicate more easily with the seemingly infinite number of application systems.