Dave Osborn: Sounding the Alarm at Standards Week

December 7, 2012

Alarms, Standards

The new AAMI Alarms Committee met during Standards Week in Daytona. This committee was formed following the AAMI/FDA Alarms Summit. The energy created by the summit has propelled the committee forward, working both in the standards space as well as the Healthcare Technology Safety Institute (of the AAMI Foundation) and its Alarms Steering Committee.

The HTSI Alarms Steering Committee has received the initial work of the AAMI Alarms Committee in three areas:

  • The sharing of best practices among healthcare organizations
  • The review of existing alarms-related publications with the creation of centralized index of useful publications
  • A research agenda in the alarms space

The HTSI website now includes pages providing a centralized reference to relevant published papers on alarm systems and is publishing new work that shares best practices among healthcare organizations in the management of alarm systems. The Alarms Steering Committee is actively looking at the research needs to support future development and use of alarm systems.

The “clarion themes” developed by the summit and the follow-up publications have generated considerable interest in the issues and problems associated with the use of medical device alarm systems. Manufacturers, healthcare organizations, and regulators have engaged in this dialogue.

The energy and interest have spread well beyond North America as the AAMI Alarms Committee has attracted membership from one of the world’s preeminent researchers in the cogitative psychology of alarm signals: Judy Edworthy, who has joined the committee. She is a professor of applied psychology at Plymouth University in the UK. Her two main areas of research interest are the applied cognitive psychology of sound and the psychology of music. In terms of the applied cognitive psychology of sound, her main interest is in the design, application and underlying theory surrounding the use of alarms in both everyday environments and specific high-workload applications.

Professor Edworthy and the committee have created an outline for a research proposal to create a revised set of auditory alarm signals to support IEC 60601-1-8 and address the known issues with the existing set of alarm signals. This proposal has already been presented to the Alarms Steering Committee and a search for funding of this extremely important research has begun.

It has been a very interesting week.  What do you think?

Dave Osborn
Co-chair, AAMI Alarms Committee
Co-convenor, ISO/IEC JWG Alarm Systems

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