Clinical Integration and Alarm Management – Two Sides of the Same Coin

Written on March 10, 2014 by Brian McAlpine

Brian McAlpine

A recent post on the Medical Connectivity blog discussed the impact of spot vs. enterprise solutions on the messaging middleware market and offered several pain points that are largely being solved with single-function “spot” solutions today:

  • Nurse call integration
  • Individual and group messaging outside the enterprise
  • Messaging to on-call staff on BYOD and enterprise devices
  • Workflow automation
  • Medical device alarms to caregivers
  • Critical test results delivered to BYOD and enterprise devices
  • Medical device central station, or “War room”

The Medical Connectivity blog also outlines a number of common architecture components that comprise an enterprise platform including: workflow engine, event processing engine, messaging engine, integration engine, dashboard engine, and database.

Many hospitals have taken a piecemeal approach to the problem because they’re unaware that an enterprise approach exists that solves the entire panel of pain points listed above. However, there are hospitals today that have leveraged advanced clinical integration via an alarm management system that improves workflows, solves a number of clinical pain points, and establishes order among the cacophony of competing communications to reduce alarm fatigue.

Owensboro Health Regional Hospital in Kentucky has been using the Extension Engage platform for almost a year throughout the entire 477-bed, 9-story medical center. They deployed 11 clinical workflow integrations that solve all of the pain points listed above – every single one – and more.

In addition to integrating its Cisco handsets with nurse call, secure messaging, patient monitors, ventilators, and a number of automated workflows, Owensboro is using its Extension platform to Evaluate the alarms being generated in order to meet accrediting standards by The Joint Commission.

Owensboro Health Regional Hospital is transforming the way caregivers communicate with each other, with their patients, and with the clinical systems that often direct their limited resources.

To learn more about the Owensboro deployment contact:

Download our two-part white paper on managing clinical alarms to improve patient safety
Brian McAlpine

Brian McAlpine – leads Extension Healthcare’s strategic marketing efforts and manages the product management team. Brian has over 23 years of experience in healthcare IT with a focus on medical device integration, alarm management and safety, and healthcare information management. Brian was most recently the Director of Strategic Products at Capsule Tech where he led the company’s product management efforts to bring the innovative Capsule Neuron bedside connectivity platform to market. Prior to that, he held senior product management and marketing roles with HP Medical (now Philips Healthcare), Siemens Medical, Draeger Medical, and Philips-Emergin.

Brian holds a BS degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

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2 thoughts on “Clinical Integration and Alarm Management – Two Sides of the Same Coin

  1. William Hyman

    Which of these products are labeled for use as a primary means of communication of, for example, medical alarms? Which disclaim such use? Which of these are being used despite such labeling? If so, are the users unaware, or pretending that such use is not primary? Can they even identify a primary for which the current system is the secondary? Do they have a backup plan if the system becomes unavailable?

    1. Extension Healthcare


      Thanks for your questions.

      Extension Healthcare has received a 510k clearance for ancillary (or secondary) notification of medical device alarms. Referring to medical devices specifically, the medical device and/or monitoring central station is, of course, the primary means of alarm communication to clinicians.

      Most of the alarm management middleware systems sold today are generally labeled for ancillary or secondary notification. While the terms are similar in meaning, it is useful to make a distinction. Ancillary notification systems provide a secondary means of annunciation or presenting alarm tones – but they provide a service that is quite different from the primary alarm system. Ancillary notifications systems provide mobility – allowing the origin of an alert tone to move with a clinician. These systems may also be configured to be adaptive and persistent.

      One way to think about the usage of these systems is as a tool to permit clinicians to roam more freely through their assigned unit. In this way, staff can more efficiently – and more safely – attend to the full range of nursing responsibilities (medications, clinical documentation, diagnostic tests, hygiene, physician and family communications) knowing that the ancillary alert notification system will draw their attention for any serious defined patient events.

      The adaptive nature of the ancillary system can bypass a primary nurse who is occupied with another patient in an isolation room – and immediately send an alarm to a designated back-up. The persistence can escalate an alarm to supervisory staff if an alert is not responded to within a defined time period.

      Given a well-designed, current-generation ancillary alarm notification system, staff can leverage the capabilities of both the primary and ancillary alarm notification systems and are less likely to confuse the them.

      Ancillary alarm notification systems are complex, networked systems. A design for resiliency and training/awareness of down-time procedures are important components of both the vendor’s release process – and the provider organization’s risk management process.


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