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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


“Alarm fatigue is a major concern,” says Chen. “That’s why we’ve done studies to show that our system has fewer false alarms than other systems.”

Westbrook of Sizewise says her company has developed different “ring tones” for different alarms to help deal with alarm fatigue.
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“One of the cool things that we did with our bed exit alarm is that we’ve made it possible to customize the ringtone,” says Westbrook. “You can pick a million different tones, we’ve done the same thing with the bed movement alarming — different sounds. That will start to eliminate alarm fatigue, which is a big problem when all of the alarms sound the same.”

This bed is just right

Like in most other health care arenas, the hospital bed industry has become more patient-specific. Sizewise recently introduced a bed made specifically for behavioral health patients. The bed includes special safety features for both the nurse and patient, such as a low height and safety fixtures that can’t be removed.

“They’re for behavioral health areas of the hospital, as well as for Alzheimer’s patients,” says Westbrook.

Another bed option, the Evolution, sits just nine inches off the ground, ideal for geriatric patients. For bariatric patients, the company offers the Bari-Rehab Platform2, which has a 1,000 pound capacity and can be expanded to 39 or 48 inches.

The bed’s surface can also be adjusted to match patient preference. Low air loss mattresses use air to create a comfortable surface for patients and prevent bed sores. Stryker’s IsoGel Air, for example, provides pressure redistribution to help prevent bed sores.

Westbrook predicts that the industry will see more progress in mattress “micro-climates,” which allow nurses to adjust the bed’s temperature based on patient preferences.

Another common patient discomfort problem comes from being lifted up by a nurse. On average, caregivers may lift patients as much as 35 times a day, causing strain on the both the patient and the caregiver. Hill-Rom’s latest VersaCare bed includes multiple technology features that assist with patient positioning, making patient movement as “easy as pressing a button,” the company says.

Mattress matters

Westbrook of Sizewise predicts that mattresses will be the next frontier for innovations in the hospital bed industry.

“We’re not ready to reveal anything yet, but we’re starting to really look at the technology of the mattress side,” says Westbrook. “Today we have green, sustainable mattresses, and we’re exploring what a surface can do in terms of interaction with the patients, what kind of statistics it’ll be able to produce in the future. It’s going to be exciting on the surface side.”
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