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Boosting Hospital Performance Through Continuous Non-invasive Patient Monitoring

Amid the Covid crisis and the sincere accolades for hospital staff, it may seem like an odd time to talk about hospital performance. The suggestion that there may be room for improvement in the extraordinary efforts of those risking their lives on the clinical front line is bound to touch some very raw nerves. And yet you could argue that there has never been a more pressing need to talk about hospital performance.

Covid has highlighted the need for front line hospital workers to have improved clinical safety, better patient support, more effective equipment and more efficient methodologies and management, not just in a pandemic but in normal circumstances too. At the same time, performance-related funding means hospitals are under pressure to reduce numbers of readmissions and hospital-acquired conditions, and improve the patient experience.

Why the need for continuous non-invasive patient monitoring?

One area in which great improvement opportunity has been identified is in safe and continuous patient monitoring in the general recovery wards. The most advanced monitoring systems currently in use across the healthcare system involve invasive sensors, obstructive wires and cables, and cumbersome monitors that a consume valuable space. Because of these challenges, this level of continuous monitoring tends to be confined to intensive care (ICU), operating rooms, and post-anesthesia care units (PACU).

Yet studies have shown that nearly half of all catastrophic events occur beyond the PACU, while patients are recuperating in the general ward and waiting for discharge. Here the monitoring is typically intermittent, usually via manual spot-check vital signs measurements collected by a nurse every four hours. That leaves four hours during which patients are not monitored and acute setbacks can, and do, occur undetected.

Wireless continuous non-invasive patient monitoring offers a solution to improve patient care, drive nurse productivity, and reduce hospital costs. Non-invasive devices like the Caretaker 4 wireless patient monitor make ICU-level monitoring practicable beyond the PACU; in the general wards and virtually any care setting. The patient is fitted with a lightweight finger cuff and wrist unit, which monitors vital signs beat-by-beat, eliminating “Blind Spots” that plague intermittent spot-check monitoring methods. This continuous monitoring means that any deterioration in a patient’s condition is detected immediately and early intervention can be applied.

Early intervention has been identified as a key factor in improving patient outcomes. Most emergency events follow a gradual decline in patient health, and by identifying the early signs of that decline, many emergency events could be prevented by stabilizing patients before the symptoms become acute.

Improving performance through earlier discharge

Doctors are reluctant to discharge patients who still need regular monitoring, because of the need to identify dangerous deterioration events and to validate patient improvement progress, and therefore early-discharge patients are likely to require readmission at some point in the near future. Hospitals are under pressure to reduce readmissions, so the best solution is deemed to be to keep the patient on the ward.

This creates another pressure: the demand for hospital beds. Moreover, a correlation has been shown between patient outcomes and length of stay in hospitals; for example, the longer a patient remains in a hospital, the greater the likelihood of them picking up a hospital-acquired disease. All of which points to the importance of discharging patients earlier, which in turn means finding a way to ensure patients are monitored out of hospital.

Again, wireless, continuous patient monitoring offers the solution. Wearable devices that non-invasively track a range of vital signs, such as heart rate, Beat-by-Beat blood pressure, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, and skin temperature effectively extend in-patient quality monitoring to all points of care, including homes. The patient data is sent wirelessly to the hospital for tracking and charting in medical records, providing important trend data to improve treatment protocols, and of course providing alerts of pending health deterioration.

The benefits of this are that patients are happy to play a more active role in their own care, adverse events are detected as they happen, doctors are able to respond earlier but can leave the monitoring to the machine while all is well. This means more efficient use of medical personnel, with one clinician able to monitor dozens or even hundreds of patients at a time, rather than sporadic, one-to-one monitoring that requires the patient to travel to a hospital or medical center. The outcome includes earlier discharge rates, better patient outcomes, fewer readmissions and more efficient use of staff time.

Using the data to improve

Continuous, Beat-by-Beat blood pressure and vital signs monitoring offers the promise of seamless connected care, bring patients and clinicians together virtually, with actionable data that can improve outcomes . With more patients being monitored more frequently for more vital signs, the breadth and depth of data is vastly superior to that currently being collected, and therefore the opportunity for hospitals to learn and improve treatments and workflows grows exponentially. Being fully automated, it is also more reliable than data that is written down on paper, passed from one person to another and then inputted into the system.

Caretaker Medical is a Wireless Digital Health company that has developed a continuous ‘beat-by-beat’ Blood Pressure and Vital Signs monitor that eliminates blind spots between traditional intermittent spot-check monitors and untethers patients from mobility-restricting wires and hoses. The FDA-Cleared Caretaker4 wireless monitor utilizes a simple finger cuff and patented Pulse Decomposition Analysis technology to measure uninterrupted blood pressure, hemodynamics, and other parameters for wire-free, “touchless” remote patient monitoring that maximizes patient comfort and clinical decision-making. For more information, please visit www.CaretakerMedical.net.

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