Technologic Distractions (Part 1): Summary of Approaches to Manage Alert Quantity With Intent to Reduce Alert Fatigue and Suggestions for Alert Fatigue Metrics

Crit Care Med. 2017 Sep;45(9):1481-1488. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0000000000002580.


Objective: To provide ICU clinicians with evidence-based guidance on tested interventions that reduce or prevent alert fatigue within clinical decision support systems.

Design: Systematic review of PubMed, Embase, SCOPUS, and CINAHL for relevant literature from 1966 to February 2017.

Patients: Focus on critically ill patients and included evaluations in other patient care settings, as well.

Interventions: Identified interventions designed to reduce or prevent alert fatigue within clinical decision support systems.

Measurements and main results: Study selection was based on one primary key question to identify effective interventions that attempted to reduce alert fatigue and three secondary key questions that covered the negative effects of alert fatigue, potential unintended consequences of efforts to reduce alert fatigue, and ideal alert quantity. Data were abstracted by two reviewers independently using a standardized abstraction tool. Surveys, meeting abstracts, "gray" literature, studies not available in English, and studies with non-original data were excluded. For the primary key question, articles were excluded if they did not provide a comparator as key question 1 was designed as a problem, intervention, comparison, and outcome question. We anticipated that reduction in alert fatigue, including the concept of desensitization may not be directly measured and thus considered interventions that reduced alert quantity as a surrogate marker for alert fatigue. Twenty-six articles met the inclusion criteria.

Conclusion: Approaches for managing alert fatigue in the ICU are provided as a result of reviewing tested interventions that reduced alert quantity with the anticipated effect of reducing fatigue. Suggested alert management strategies include prioritizing alerts, developing sophisticated alerts, customizing commercially available alerts, and including end user opinion in alert selection. Alert fatigue itself is studied less frequently, as an outcome, and there is a need for more precise evaluation. Standardized metrics for alert fatigue is needed to advance the field. Suggestions for standardized metrics are provided in this document.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Alarms / adverse effects*
  • Critical Illness*
  • Decision Support Systems, Clinical / organization & administration*
  • Drug Hypersensitivity / epidemiology
  • Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / organization & administration*
  • Mental Fatigue / etiology*
  • Mental Fatigue / prevention & control*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic