Friday, November 23, 2012

Hospital Bed Alarms- What is the Benefit?

There is much discussion in my line of work on improving patient safety, particularly related to hospital acquired infections. But patient safety is not limited to infectious diseases.

Patient falls are a major safety issue and hospitals are required to implement and evaluate a falls reduction program for ongoing accreditation by the Joint Commission. Decreased patient falls are associated with hospital Magnet status and quality of nursing.

It seems like we are always searching for new technologies to enhance patient safety in healthcare. One such related technology are bed alarms.

Are bed alarms useful for the actual prevention of patient falls? Here is a single center, cluster-randomized trial on the effectiveness of bed alarms on patient falls published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.  Although the intervention was successful in increasing the use of bed alarms, there was no significant impact on fall-related events or the use of patient restraints.

This paper may serve as a warning on technology over reliance and reminds us that minimizing patient fall risk is multifactorial, requiring a coordinated effort, as outlined here by the Veterans Affairs National Center for Patient Safety.  

No one said it would be easy.


  1. I have seen this happen with my own family in hospitals and nursing homes. Amazing, eevn with a bed alarm, had to put the mattress on the floor.

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