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Sensors Can Adequately Monitor Low-Risk Hospital Patients at Night


Patients don’t need to be woken for periodic vital sign checks, a new study finds.

hospital bed

Photo has been modified. CC0 Public Domain.

Low-risk hospital patients can be adequately monitored through the night using continuous monitoring devices instead of vital sign checkups performed by nurses and doctors, according to a new study.

The research suggests many hospital patients may not need to be woken up during the overnight hours. It also offers concrete data to support the broad deployment of continuous monitoring in inpatient settings.

The study was performed at the University of Chicago using contactless continuous monitoring sensors manufactured by the company EarlySense. Low-risk patients who were left undisturbed from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. reported higher satisfaction and had no increase in adverse events. The data also suggest the under-the-mattress sensors could save costs for hospitals.

Dalia Argaman, M.S., EarlySense’s vice president of clinical and regulatory affairs and quality assurance, told Inside Digital Health that “low-risk” patients make up a high percentage of hospital inpatients.

“Medical experts estimate that at any point in time, 50% of patients in the medical/surgical floors are considered low risk,” she said. “This would include, for example, post-surgical patients who are stable/improving and patients admitted for congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pneumonia, who are again stable or on a positive track to recovery.”

If this type of technology is widely adopted, it would represent a paradigm shift in the way hospitals use continuous monitoring. Until now, only the highest-risk patients have been continuously monitored, the theory being that their likelihood of deterioration warrants the high cost of continuous monitoring. However, as lower-cost monitoring solutions like EarlySense’s sensors become available, the cost of continuous monitoring is falling below the cost of in-person checks.

“Continuous monitoring has proven to be very effective for overall patient safety and care, and we expect that it will soon be implemented with all patients in all hospitals and post-acute facilities,” Argaman said.

A secondary analysis of the study data shows this type of monitoring could save hospitals between $200,000 and $550,000 per 100 hospital beds per year. In addition, the replacement of staff checkups with continuous monitoring could also have positive health benefits for patients, the company says, because patients would be able to sleep through the night undisturbed.

Argaman said clinicians appreciate the system as well, since it allows them to prioritize their time.

“Practitioners pride themselves on being attentive and caring for all their patients, but their time is limited, and emergency situations are unpredictable,” she said. “Health staff would prefer to spend their time on higher-risk patients, knowing that a smart monitoring system ‘has their backs’ with their other lower-risk patients.”

She added that EarlySense’s sensors are designed to alert hospital staff at the earliest deterioration in vital signs, giving clinicians the chance to quickly attend to patients if their risk category changes. In fact, clinical studies have shown continuous monitoring can reduce code blue events by more than 86%.

In a press release, principal investigator Dana Edelson, M.D., of the University of Chicago, said continuous monitoring is a logical next step for hospitals.

“This practice represents a simple, patient-centered approach to deploying expensive healthcare resources, which improves patient satisfaction and decreases costs without increasing risk,” she said. “Letting our low-risk patients sleep at night is an easy win and should be the new standard of care.”

The study has yet to be published, but the researchers are submitting it to peer-reviewed journals.

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