Wireless Sensors Reduce ICU Days

Wireless sensors that provide contact-free patient monitoring allow fewer health care practitioners to keep track of more critical patients.

Anthony Vecchione, Contributor

June 8, 2012

3 Min Read

10 Wearable Devices To Keep Patients Healthy

10 Wearable Devices To Keep Patients Healthy

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The total number of days spent in the ICU and overall length of stay decline when hospital patients are continuously monitored using contact-free sensors, according to a new study.

Effect Of Contactless Continuous Patient Monitoring In A Medical-Surgical Unit On Intensive Care Unit Transfers: A Controlled Clinical Trial by the Center for Patient Safety Research and Practice, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass., was conducted at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, a 316-bed acute care hospital in Newton, Mass. As part of the study, investigators used the EarlySense system from Waltham, Mass.-based EarlySense Inc., in a 33-bed medical-surgical unit. They placed bedside monitors and a central nursing station display on unit and integrated the system with the help of mobile phones.

The researchers reviewed about 7,600 patient charts; over 2,300 of which were for patients who had sensors placed under the mattress rather than on their skin. The rest of the patients, in three separate control arms, didn't get these special sensors, which collected data on respiration, heart rate, and motion.

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Patients in the wireless sensor group saw a reduction of just over two days in the average stay in the ICU (a 45.9% reduction), when comparing pre- and post-intervention, with a trend of a decline in the number of transfers. The results translated in a 47.2% decrease in the rate of total ICU days for transfers between the pre-intervention and the post-interventions periods. In addition, length of stay of patients in the medical-surgical units was also reduced substantially following the intervention by a mean of 0.4 days, a reduction of almost 10%.

As hospital staffs are squeezed by economic and regulatory factors, fewer healthcare professionals now manage sicker hospital patients. That in turn has increased demand for remote monitoring, which allows clinicians to spot the early warning signs of patient deterioration.

"The system effectively identifies early warning signs and allows clinicians to intervene earlier. The system continuously monitors the vital signs without ever touching the body," Avner Halperin, CEO of EarlySense told InformationWeek Healthcare. Halperin added that the system can work completely as a stand-alone system and has standard interfaces to the hospital's EMR. One of the key challenges with traditional wire sensors, according to Halperin, is that every time one of them dislocates or falls off, it activates an alarm. Clinicians often ignore these alarms because they happen so frequently. "When the sensors never touch the body you don't have any of those challenges, and that’s a much cleaner setup."

"[Contact-free monitoring] substantially enhances monitoring because ... it lets you see at what rate the patient is breathing, and it also allows you to sort out whether the patient is moving and how much the patient is moving," David Bates, Chief Quality Officer and Chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, told InformationWeek Healthcare.

Bates added that eliminating leads and cables on the body allows for more patient mobility and also decreases the chances for falls. "It's nice not to have any more tethers than necessary."

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About the Author(s)

Anthony Vecchione


Anthony Vecchione is a veteran health/medical journalist with extensive experience writing and editing news and feature stories as well as breaking news for both print and online editions.

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