A recent article in 6Minutes News highlighted an American Journal of Emergency Medicine study into a phenomenon dubbed ‘Alarm fatigue’. Where the almost constant sounding of monitor alarms causes hospital staff to become desensitised to the sounds which can result in real emergencies being missed.
The study was conducted in an emergency department over a 53 hour period, during which 1,049 alarms went off, associated with 146 patients. Emergency staff did not respond to 63% of the alarms.
It is easy to ignore or rationalise away warning signs; “It was a one off, it won’t happen again”, “It’s happened before and didn’t amount to anything”, or “Give it time, it will sort itself out”.
Reading this in print it is easy to see the fallacy of the comments. But how often might we do the same, ignoring the warning signs or being desensitised to them. The key is to realise warning signs are just that, warning signs. The consequence may not be immediate, but they shouldn’t be ignored.
Consider that strange noise your car has been making lately. It hasn’t stopped the car from running. You can still get from A to B. You looked under the bonnet, checked the oil and the coolant. Everything seemed to be in place and working, just an odd noise with an unidentifiable origin.
The car could continue to run without trouble for a long time yet. But you know deep down the noise means at least two things; something may fail and the damage may be getting worse. The smart money is on getting it looked at by a professional and getting it fixed as soon as possible.
Let’s think about this in the context of your medical practice and the warning signs that are all around you but might be going unnoticed or ignored. Things like: patient grievances, reporting of process failures, increased staff turnover, adequacy of your insurances, how third party services are supplied to your practice (like patient bookings), currency of staff training. Like the noise in your car, problems in these areas can cause damage in other areas, or have a compounding effect. The knock-on effects can potentially mask the real cause and increase the costs to your practice in lost productivity, poor service, lost income, higher costs and poor patient outcomes leading to complaints and claims.
Your practice may continue to run for some time before there is a serious failure, but left unaddressed, that failure is not too far away. Investigating the ‘noises’, early attention and preventative maintenance will help ensure your practice continues to run like a well-oiled machine.
MIGA is uniquely placed to assist your practice through our risk education, practice assessments, medico-legal support and, of course, insurance advice to help you protect your practice entity and non-clinical staff.
Trouble can arise on the calmest of waters, so it is great to know that you have easy access to professional support when you need it. We encourage you to seek our help, we want to see your practice thrive.