False or clinically insignificant alarms, which do not represent a real danger to patients, often occur at hospitals and healthcare facilities. Exposure to excessive alarms, which do not require medical intervention, can result in desensitization among healthcare providers who are intended to respond to these alerts. This is known as alarm fatigue.
Alarm fatigue is similar to the classic story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf. If false alarms happen regularly, this can lead to reflexive silencing of alarms, breaking monitoring protocols, and missing true positive alarms. As a result, this may jeopardize the healthcare provider’s ability to care for patients, leading to patient dissatisfaction, costly interruptions, and potential harm to patients.