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National push to develop smart alarms for the ICU

Narrator:       This is Science Today. A small group of nurse scientists are conducting research to help solve the growing problem of alarm fatigue in hospitals. This is when clinicians begin to turn down, tune out or turn off the staggering amount of alarms that sound every hour in nationwide ICU units. Barbara Drew, a cardiac monitoring expert at the University of California, San Francisco, says many of these alarms are false positives, so they're suggesting smarter alarms, including those with 15-second delays.

Drew:            The clinically meaningful events generally persist for a little bit of time.

Narrator:       For example, if the monitor is measuring oxygen saturation in the blood through a finger probe, those can fall off or can change if a patient is moving around and cause a short stab of change that sounds an alarm.

Drew:            Those are usually false. And so by putting in like a 15-second delay, the oxygen saturation level would have to persist for at least 15 seconds before an alarm was triggered.

Narrator:       For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.