How a Large Health Care Facility in Connecticut Eliminated Excessive Alarm use

Success Story IconBranford Hills Health Center is a 190-bed skilled nursing facility located in Branford, Connecticut. The facility has been continuously owned and operated since 1980 and provides comprehensive short-term rehabilitation and long-term care services. The facility is five-star rated by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Branford Hills visitors may notice quiet, tranquil atmosphere when they enter the building. The lack of loud alarms is part of an ongoing project that involves the efforts of both residents and staff.

The project began when two charge nurses voiced concern about excessive noise from personal alarm use. The alarms were disruptive not only to the staff, but also to residents and visitors. Personal alarms are provided to residents, so they can notify the staff of an emergency, such as a fall. However, it was suspected that they were being misused, and that not all residents needed access to an alarm. Suspicions were confirmed when the staff performed a closer inspection of the issue, and they decided to embark on a project to reduce alarm use in the facility.

As a starting point, The Branford Hills Health Center team accessed resources from the Connecticut Team from the New England QIN-QIO. After some discussion, the team decided to focus their alarm investigation on two units: three residents in one unit, and five in the other. After developing a tracking tool, the team monitored the two units for seven days. Three out of five residents in one unit never sounded an alarm. The remaining two, a married couple, became anxious when the alarm sounded, so they often removed them independently or for each other. The staff had the couple evaluated by therapy and as a result they were independent in their room. This action resulted in a 45% reduction in alarm use.

The second observed unit never sounded an alarm, and as a result, all three alarms were discontinued.

The data collected during the project is shared with staff on a board in the break room, as well as during monthly staff meetings and morning check-ins. The data is also presented to residents at the resident council meeting. The goal is to become an alarm-free facility, and the project has inspired a friendly competition between units as alarms are discontinued.

If an alarm is triggered by a charge nurse after a fall, the alarm is logged in the tracker along with a note on why it was triggered. The log is studied to determine patterns that may assist in determining future interventions. The Branford Hills Health Center team offers continuous education for residents, so alarms do not become the first intervention for falls.