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Special report: "Smart beds" improve safety

by Nancy Ryerson , Staff Writer
From the January 2014 issue of DOTmed HealthCare Business News magazine

“We provide a pattern of movement so you can start studying now, this patient may be more awake than they were before, I’m going to get them out of bed now before they get out on their own,” says Charlotte Miller, director of nursing informatics at BAM Labs. If an accident does happen, the reporting allows doctors and nurses to have what Miller calls a “fall huddle” and create a plan of action to prevent the same thing from happening again.

“They will look at the trends, and say, ‘look at this pattern, the resident’s heart rate and respirations were moving a lot more. Maybe instead of getting them up at four, maybe we should get them up at three,’” says Miller.
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The same tool can be used to decide on a plan for rotating a patient to prevent bed sores. The technology records which side the patient was moved to at a certain time to help nurses keep track of changes.

Plus, having a sensor under the bed tends to be more comfortable than being attached to traditional patient fall sensors.

“Because it’s non-invasive, having a discrete solution that’s under the mattress, it helps preserve patient dignity,” says Miller. “It’s about taking care of them in a comfortable and home-like environment. That’s a requirement that we’re hearing from customers.”

Wires and other connectors also have the potential to become detached, another benefit of a hands-free solution.

“Sensors are good for burn victims, too, because nothing has to touch the skin,” says Edward Chen, president and COO of Hoana Medical, Inc., which makes the LifeBed patient vigilance system, a sensor that slips beneath a hospital bed sheet and tracks patient data.

The LifeBed system connects to a patient and delivers movement data to a bedside monitor. Chen says that a future release the company is currently working on will eliminate the bedside monitor for an even easier experience for nursing staff. “We’re building it up so it’s wireless and Bluetooth compatible, so it works better for the modern day,” says Chen. He foresees the technology being especially helpful in neonatal intensive care units, as hospital staff are always in need of more information about one of the most vulnerable patient groups in a hospital.

Don’t be alarmed

The special features of smart beds may be beneficial, but if they beep and chirp as much as all of the other alarms in a typical hospital room, they’re contributing to alarm fatigue. Alarm fatigue was once again listed as the top health care safety concern by the ECRI Institute in 2013, beating out risks like CT radiation exposure in pediatric patients. Basically, if there are too many alarms sounding at all hours, many of which only tell the nurse that everything is working fine, it’s all too easy to start tuning out certain sounds. Purveyors of smart bed technology work to ensure their offerings aren’t a part of the problem.
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