Healthcare News & Insights

Wireless sensor system helps prevent pressure ulcers

126517453If there are well-known and effective methods for identifying and preventing hospital-acquired pressure ulcers (HAPUs), why are they still one of the most prevalent hospital-acquired conditions?

According to Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare (PSQH), it’s because nurses are frequently interrupted while providing patient care to respond to emergencies, requests for information, family members questions, ect.

Staggering costs

The industry needs to find a solution to this, because it can cost as much as $70,000 to treat a single full-thickness pressure ulcer, according to “Pressure ulcer prevention and management,” which appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2003. And it’s estimated that each year 2.5 million patients are treated for this condition in acute-care facilities. That adds up to about $11 billion annually — an exorbitant cost for a preventable condition.

Here’s the problem: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in 2008 included pressure ulcers on its list of preventable hospital acquired conditions (HACs) it’ll no longer reimburse facilities for. That’s a staggering bill for most hospitals to take on.

While the current best practices (identifying at-risk patients, and turning and repositioning them every two hours) are effective, it’s difficult for nurses to sustain with all the demands on their time.

Technological advancements in diagnostic capabilities and information technology have helped improve the occurrence of HAPUs, but they don’t solve the interruptive nature of a nurse’s job.

Help is here

Tim Gee, principal and founder of Medical Connectivity Consulting, recently wrote about a new advancement in wireless sensors that is helping the patient care world.

The wireless sensor system, created by Leaf Healthcare, is made up of a patient worn wireless sensor, a wireless mesh network and server based application software.

According to Gee’s article, “Patients at risk for pressure ulcers have a sensor based accelerometer with a two-week battery life applied to the chest. The system monitors patient movement and position changes over time, and correlates those position changes with prescribed turn protocols necessary to prevent pressure ulcers.”

The system informs caregivers through a dashboard display when patients need to be turned. The company is also working on an application programming interface (API), which would notify nurses via messaging middleware to mobile devices such as smartphones and wireless VoIP handsets.

Currently, the system is being tested at El Camino Hospital, in Mountain View, CA.

Monitors and updates patients

When shifting positions, many patients turn themselves. The nice thing about the system is that it tracks these “self-turns” and updates the dashboards so nurses know they don’t have to turn those patients at that time. Also, the dashboard alerts nurses as to how much time is left before a patient needs to be turned again, and, if that time has already passed, it keeps track of the time that’s elapsed after the required turn was to occur.

This allows nurses to quickly identify patients who need to be turned immediately, which lessens their work load and makes them more efficient and effective caregivers.

Helping nurses juggle between “as activities allow” tasks and emergent events is vital. And while turning patients to prevent pressure ulcers is time sensitive, there’s some leeway. They can be done early, on time and even on a slightly delayed basis without affecting outcomes. And the dashboard display helps with prioritizing tasks, without the worry alarms going off or nursing forgetting all together.

As for hospital supervisors, it provides management information letting them know if staffing levels need to be adjusted, it can identify training needs and other important factors that can contribute to a more seamless work environment and better patient care.







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