Quantifying the Impact of Infusion Alerts and Alarms on Nursing Workflows: A Retrospective Analysis

Link to article at PubMed

Appl Clin Inform. 2021 May;12(3):528-538. doi: 10.1055/s-0041-1730031. Epub 2021 Jun 30.


BACKGROUND: Smart infusion pumps affect workflows as they add alerts and alarms in an information-rich clinical environment where alarm fatigue is already a major concern. An analytic approach is needed to quantify the impact of these alerts and alarms on nursing workflows and patient safety.

OBJECTIVES: To analyze a detailed infusion dataset from a smart infusion pump system and identify contributing factors for infusion programming alerts, operational alarms, and alarm resolution times.

METHODS: We analyzed detailed infusion pump data across four hospitals in a health system for up to 1 year. The prevalence of alerts and alarms was grouped by infusion type and a selected list of 32 high-alert medications (HAMs). Logistic regression was used to explore the relationship between a set of risk factors and the occurrence of alerts and alarms. We used nonparametric tests to explore the relationship between alarm resolution times and a subset of predictor variables.

RESULTS: The study dataset included 745,641 unique infusions with a total of 3,231,300 infusion events. Overall, 28.7% of all unique infusions had at least one operational alarm, and 2.1% of all unique infusions had at least one programming alert. Alarms averaged two per infusion, whereas at least one alert happened in every 48 unique infusions. Eight percent of alarms took over 4 minutes to resolve. Intravenous fluid infusions had the highest rate of error-state occurrence. HAMs had 1.64 more odds for alerts than the rest of the infusions. On average, HAMs had a higher alert rate than maintenance fluids.

CONCLUSION: Infusion pump alerts and alarms impact clinical care, as alerts and alarms by design interrupt clinical workflow. Our study showcases how hospital system leadership teams can leverage infusion pump informatics to prioritize quality improvement and patient safety initiatives pertaining to infusion practices.

PMID:34192773 | DOI:10.1055/s-0041-1730031

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