December 14, 2015 | | Comments 0
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Only a few shopping days left before the next phase of TJC’s clinical alarm management wishes…

Just in time for the holidays, our good friends at the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (more acronymically known as AAMI) have released an Alarm Compendium (isn’t that a fancy title!) to assist healthcare organizations meet the challenges of (our other friends—isn’t it good to have so many friends!) The Joint Commission’s National Patient Safety Goal on Clinical Alarms for which Phase 2 (is it really Phase 2? I’ve kind of lost track since this the second iteration of the Patient Safety Goal, so why don’t we call this v.2.2?) kicks in next month. I haven’t had the chance to look through the whole thing, but I have a sneaking suspicion that we might be observing some of the practices and activities outlined in the Compendium as a benchmark for performance during the 2016 survey year (those of you who have been following this topic closely will recognize some of the 10 Ideas for Safe Alarm Management).

At any rate, the Compendium offers a lot of information about current available knowledge, a list of alarm management challenges, some ideas (10, if you’re counting) for safe alarm management, some sample default parameter settings (for both adult and pediatric patients) and some (what I suspect you’ll find to be) useful appendices. Strictly speaking, the whole thing boils to the simple concept of using alarms safely (simple, but not so easy to pull off). Basically, what we’re looking at (particularly as a function of the next phase of operations) is a classic process improvement activity. I suppose if you (and your organization) have been fortunate enough never to have experienced a failure relative to clinical alarm management you might even be able to use this as a Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) to meet TJC’s requirements for a proactive risk reduction activity. That said, I think we can anticipate some interest on the part of the Joint Commission surveyors as they hit the accreditation beaches in 2016 (and, no doubt, beyond). Minimally, it would be more than advisable to dissect the information contained in the Compendium and determine how it may (or may not) relate to clinical operations in your facility. One of the things I like about the Compendium is that it stays away from a “one size fits all” trap (frequently this results in a one-size-fits-none scenario) by providing a fairly broad framework for moving forward. Of course, there is always the possibility (I won’t go so far as to call it a likelihood, but if you’re feeling it, I say “go or it!”) that surveyors will form their own sense of what compliance looks like. I think the best defense is to be prepared to demonstrate, within the framework of the Compendium, to demonstrate what compliance means within your four walls. My mantra when it comes to this stuff is this—you know what “works” in your house better than any surveyor dropping by for a quick visit can—at the end of the day, the responsibility is to ensure an appropriately safe environment for patients, staff, and visitors. Your efforts in this regard should fit quite neatly into your risk management strategy(s): make sure you have all the appropriate folks sign off on the strategy(s) and you should be able to successfully navigate the survey process (this is true of pretty much everything, now that I think about it…)

While the more cynical part of me thinks that perhaps they could have provided a little more lead time for hospitals to absorb the materials, I guess that might be a little too much like looking a gift (insert animal name here) in the mouth. The Compendium is available online. I think this is one gift I’d unwrap now and start playing with—January 1, 2016 will be here before you know it!

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Filed Under: Environment of careThe Joint Commission

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Steve MacArthur About the Author: Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant with The Greeley Company in Danvers, Mass. He brings more than 30 years of healthcare management and consulting experience to his work with hospitals, physician offices, and ambulatory care facilities across the country. He is the author of HCPro's Hospital Safety Director's Handbook and is contributing editor for Briefings on Hospital Safety. Contact Steve at stevemacsafetyspace@gmail.com.

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