Wireless sensor can save patients' lives
New technology from EarlySense helps hospitals respond faster.
Outside of intensive care units, hospital patients typically aren’t hooked to a tangle of wires to continuously monitor their vital signs. But that means nurses making rounds every four to six hours may miss the warning signs that a patient’s health is deteriorating, or that he or she is having a heart attack, not breathing properly or is likely to fall.
What if nurses could be alerted to a patient’s failing health or potential to fall before it occurs – no wires attached?
Based on monitoring a patient's vital signs, a new device can sound an alarm six to eight hours before a harmful event such as a heart attack might occur and about a minute before a fall.
The wireless sensor was developed by EarlySense in Israel and is already being used in a dozen U.S. hospitals and other medical facilities.
The sensor is allowing nurses to respond quicker, reducing costly hospital stays, injuries and even deaths.
(Photo: Courtesy of EarlySense)
“If a patient has a cardiac arrest, it’s too late,” Dr. Eyal Zimlichman, who has researched EarlySense, told From The Grapevine. “Chances of successful resuscitation are about 17 percent. We have a window of six to eight hours prior that we could identify deterioration early if we have the right identifying device.”
Zimlichman works at Israel's Sheba Medical Center and is also a researcher at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.
EarlySense uses a flat wireless sensor (pictured at left) under a hospital mattress to continuously monitor the patient’s heart rate, breathing and movements. Unlike other vital-sign monitors, EarlySense doesn’t attach to the patient, resulting in fewer false alarms when the patient moves or conventional sensors disconnect from the body.
The technology relays information from a bedside monitor to a central nursing station, on large screens in prominent hospital locations and on nurses’ personal handheld devices. It also measures response times, which can be used to improve patient care, and can alert nurses whether patients need to move more to prevent bed sores, he said.
In one clinical trial, EarlySense reduced intensive care days by about 50 percent and cut cases requiring the need to restart a patient’s heart by more than 80 percent, said Zimlichman, one of the researchers for the study, published about a year ago in The American Journal of Medicine.
Among the medical facilities that began using EarlySense after it was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are large networks such as Partners Healthcare, Dignity Health and Veterans Administration hospitals.
Welch Allyn, a major medical diagnostic device company, is also combining EarlySense with its own vital sign technology, marketing it in the United States and Australia. This week, tech giant Samsung announced that it had invested directly in EarlySense and hopes to use its sensors in non-health related consumer applications.
EarlySense addresses another big medical issue in the United States. Every year, up to a million U.S. hospital patients take a tumble, often resulting in more injury and higher hospital costs, according to the federal Agency for Health Research and Quality. Close to a third of those falls could be prevented, the agency says.
With EarlySense, nurses are alerted before a potential spill. The sensor detects vibrations through the mattress that indicates a patient’s movement, breathing and heartbeat and signal that the patient is likely to leave the bed in a minute or so, CEO Avner Halperin told From The Grapevine.
Doctors and nurses watch the status of patients using EarlySense on a big-screen monitor. (Photo: Courtesy of EasySense)
The technology has literally been a lifesaver for the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in the Bronx, N.Y., medical director Dr. Zachary Palace told From The Grapevine. During a nine-month clinical study with EarlySense, the nursing home was able to reduce falls by 38 percent, save four lives, treat pain faster and keep patients out of the hospital.
“It’s an extra set of eyes and ears” on the patient, he said. The Hebrew Home has used the technology for four years in its short-term care units. Last year it doubled the number of beds using EarlySense, from 45 to 90, Palace said.
Whether in a nursing home or a hospital, the key to helping patients is early detection, Halperin said. “It’s very important to understand the bigger picture: We want to keep patients safe and send them home as soon as possible without preventable deterioration.”
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