The alarms of medical devices are a matter of concern in critical and perioperative care. The frequent false alarms not only are a nuisance for patients and caregivers but can also compromise patient safety and effectiveness of care. The development of alarm systems has lagged behind the technological advances of medical devices over the last 20 years. From a clinical perspective, major improvements of alarm algorithms are urgently needed. We give an overview of the current clinical situation and the underlying problems and discuss different methods from statistics and computational science and their potential for clinical application.