Alarm fatigue. Alarm fatigue is defined as the desensitization of a clinician to an alarm stimulus, resulting from sensory overload and causing the response of an alarm to be delayed or dismissed.12 In 2014, the Emergency Care Research Institute named alarm hazards as the number one health technology hazard, noting that numerous alarms on a daily basis can lead to desensitization and “alarm fatigue.”
CCM, and the overuse of CCM in particular, contribute to alarm fatigue, which can lead to patient safety issues, including delays in treatment, medication errors, and potentially death.
Increased cost. Because telemetry requires specialized equipment and trained monitoring staff, cost can be significant. In addition to equipment, cost includes time spent by providers, nurses, and technicians interpreting the images and discussing findings with consultants, as well as the additional studies obtained as a result of identified arrhythmias.
Studies on CCM cost vary widely, with conservative estimates of approximately $53 to as much as $1,400 per patient per day in some hospitals.13
Lack of specificity. Because of the high sensitivity and low specificity of CCM, use of CCM in low-risk patients without indications increases the risk of misinterpreting false-positive findings as clinically significant. This can lead to errors in management, including overtesting, unnecessary consultation with subspecialists, and the potential for inappropriate invasive procedures.1
High-Value CCM Use
Because of the low value associated with cardiac monitoring in many patients and the high sensitivity of the guidelines to capture patients at high risk for cardiac events, many hospitals have sought to limit the overuse of this technology. The most successful interventions have targeted the electronic ordering system by requiring an indication and hardwiring an order duration based on guideline recommendations. In a recent study, this intervention led to a 70% decrease in usage and reported $4.8 million cost savings without increasing the rate of in-hospital rapid response or cardiac arrest.14
Systems-level interventions to decrease inappropriate initiation and facilitate discontinuation of cardiac monitoring are a proven way to increase compliance with guidelines and decrease the overuse of CCM.
Back to the Case
According to AHA guidelines, the only patient who has an indication for CCM is the 67-year-old man with known CAD and chest pain, and, accordingly, the patient was placed on CCM. The patient underwent evaluation for ACS, and monitoring was discontinued after 24 hours when ACS was ruled out. The 56-year-old man with sepsis responded to treatment of pneumonia and was not placed on CCM.
In general, patients admitted with acute cardiac-related diseases should be placed on CCM. Guidelines are lacking with respect to many noncardiac diseases, and we recommend a time-limited duration (typically 24 hours) if CCM is ordered for a patient with a special circumstance outside of guidelines (see Figure 3).
Hospitalists should use continuous cardiac monitoring for specific indications and not routinely for all patients.
Drs. Lacy and Rendon are hospitalists in the department of internal medicine at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine in Albuquerque. Dr. Davis is a resident in internal medicine at UNM, and Dr. Tolstrup is a cardiologist at UNM.