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Disquiet: Patient Experiences with Hospital Bedside Alarms

When we think of hospitals, we often picture  diligent doctors, caring nurses, and state-of-the-art equipment. However, for many patients, a permanent memory of their hospital stay is the incessant beeping of bedside alarms. The reality is that while these alarms are vital for patient safety, they can be a significant source of stress and anxiety. 

In a busy hospital ward, alarms from medical devices are frequent. These alarms indicate everything from a minor change in vital signs to life-threatening situations. While essential for alerting healthcare professionals, these incessant noises can quickly become a source of distress for patients. 

Many patients recount lying in bed, trying to decipher the urgency of each alarm, wondering if it’s their device sounding an alert, and if they are in immediate danger. More mobile patients wonder if they should alert staff for another patient whose alarms have been sounding for long periods. The unpredictability of the alarms, coupled with a patient’s already vulnerable state, can lead to heightened anxiety and certainly contribute to lack of sleep.. 

Sleep, as we know, is essential for healing and mental wellbeing, and constant sleep disturbance can heighten the experience of pain, impair cognitive function and make communication with loved ones challenging. While the alarms are designed with the best intentions—to ensure patient safety—the side effect is often a heightened sense of vulnerability and fear for loved ones who are confined to a hospital ward.. 

Hospitals are aware of this issue and are continually seeking methods to reduce unnecessary alarms and improve the overall patient experience. But until a more harmonious solution is found, understanding and empathy are crucial. It’s essential for healthcare providers to reassure patients, explain the purpose of different alarms, and ensure a comfortable environment to the best of their ability. 

While medical device alarms in hospitals are essential for safety, their impact on patient well-being can’t be ignored. As healthcare continues to advance, striking a balance between essential alert systems and patient comfort remains a pressing challenge. 

With BEAMS mobilised on wards we see a dramatic reduction in the length of time alarms sound for – 74% in some cases.  This means quieter wards, calmer patients, and a better environment for recovery.

If you’d like to know more about BEAMS and the difference it can make, please feel free to watch this video or to contact us. We’re always happy to talk!

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