Children requiring long-term mechanical ventilation are at high risk of mortality. Setting ventilator alarms may improve safety, but best practices for setting ventilator alarms have not been established. Our objective was to increase the mean proportion of critical ventilator alarms set for those children requiring chronic mechanical ventilation followed in our pulmonary clinic from 63% to >90%.


Using the Institute for Healthcare Improvement Model for Improvement, we developed, tested, and implemented a series of interventions using Plan-Do-Study-Act cycles. We followed our progress using statistical process control methods. Our primary interventions were: (1) standardization of the clinic workflow, (2) development of an algorithm to guide physicians in selecting and setting ventilator alarms, (3) updating that algorithm based on review of failures and inpatient testing, and (4) enhancing staff engagement to change the culture surrounding ventilator alarms.


We collected baseline data from May 1 to July 13, 2017 on 130 consecutive patients seen in the pulmonary medicine clinic. We found that 63% of critical ventilator alarms were set. Observation of the process, standardization of workflow, and adaptation of an alarm algorithm led to an increase to 85.7% of critical alarms set. Through revising our algorithm to include an apnea alarm, and maximizing provider engagement, more than 95% of critical ventilator alarms were set, exceeding our goal. We sustained this improvement through January 2021.


Our stepwise approach, including process standardization, staff engagement, and integration of an alarm algorithm, improved the use of ventilator alarms in chronically ventilated pediatric patients.

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