Are Heart Monitors Sometimes More Trouble Than They Are Worth?

In many hospitals, a large number of patients wear cardiac monitors. Hospital officials argue this practice allows patients with more critical ailments to be treated on “regular” floors, which speeds up the admitting process and reduces strains on emergency rooms. Furthermore, many take the “better safe than sorry” position and believe the mere use of heart monitors will reduce the risk of medical malpractice accusations.

According to, some nurses and other experts have come out with concerns about the abundance of cardiac monitors, arguing they may actually put patients in more danger. With more patients wearing these monitors, more alarms sound more frequently. This can desensitize nursing staff to the alarms, leading them to tune out the noise instead of investigating the cause. Ignoring the alarms can lead to further complications for patients and could potentially lead to patient death.

A study done by the National Institutes of Health found that about a quarter of hospital patients wearing heart monitors did not meet criteria for the alarms. Hospitals frequently turn to heart monitors in an effort to prevent medical errors that could lead to medical malpractice lawsuits. However, in some cases monitors replaced patient evaluations which could uncover rarer problems with hidden symptoms. This ultimately puts patients in more danger.

Heart monitors are useful tools when used properly. But they should not replace traditional medicine.


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