Research Finds Hospital Bed Alarms Don’t Affect Fall Hazards

bed.jpgNew research seems to contradict earlier findings about the usefulness of hospital bed alarms in reducing the risk of fall accidents involving patients. The research finds that hospital bed alarms don’t significantly reduce the risk of a person suffering a fall accident.

Many hospitals have invested in hospital bed alarms to reduce the risk of falls when the patient is trying to get out of bed. Reducing the risk of fall accidents has become a top priority for hospitals, especially since Medicare announced that it will no longer reimburse facilities for these falls and related costs, because they should never have occurred in the first place. Therefore, the number of hospitals that have installed bed alarms has increased.

However, the researchers found that there were no significant benefits from this practice. They documented fall accidents that occurred among patients in 16 medical as well as surgical units at a hospital in Tennessee. Eight of those units were designated as “usual care,” while the other eight units were designated as “intervention units.”

The researchers worked hard to explain the benefits of the alarms in the intervention unit, and widened their use. The use of the alarms increased as a result of the intervention.

However, at the end of the study, when the fall accident tally was tabulated, the researchers found that there was no significant reduction in fall accidents among the 27,672 patients in these units. In other words, the patients in the units that used the bed alarms more heavily were just as likely to suffer a fall accident as patients in the control unit in which bed alarms were not used as frequently.

According to the statistics, there were 5.624 accidents per 1000 patient days in the intervention group, compared to a total of 4.564 accidents in the control unit. That isn’t a statistically significant difference.

Most hospital bed alarms are installed in order to keep patients safe as well as reduce the cost of hospital expenses from injuries caused by such falls. However, the researchers found that the costs were likely higher due to the cost of the devices themselves. A regular bed monitor cost $350 per device.

So, why do these bed alarms not work as effectively as believed to reduce the risk of fall accidents? Indiana medical malpractice attorneys believe that the reason can be found in the same phenomenon that has also made other types of alarms like cardiac alarms in hospitals, almost redundant. A phenomenon called alarm fatigue kicks in when nurses and other aides working in a hospital get used to having these different types of alarms beeping several times in a day, and as a result, become used to the sound of these alarms. This increases the risk that these nurses will simply ignore these cardiac and ventilator alarms when they go off. Something similar probably also happens in the case of bed alarms.

The Indiana personal injury lawyers at Montross Miller Muller Mendelson Kennedy, LLP, represent persons injured in accidents across Indiana.