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Special Report: New technology helps patients rest easy

by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | January 21, 2013
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From the January 2013 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

In mid-November, at Scotland’s Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, a 95-year-old woman died after apparently getting trapped beneath her hospital bed and then crushed when she activated the footswitch that adjusts the height.

While incidents like the one that occurred in Edinburgh are rare, other accidents, like falls, pinches, bed sores and injuries to staff caused by lifting or shifting patients are all too common. Fortunately, manufacturers are being proactive in introducing solutions to help decrease occurrences of those accidents through design and technology.

Mary Nell Westbrook, chief marketing officer for Sizewise, a hospital bed and mattress manufacturer, provided more details about improvements the company has made in bed safety. “We have the industry’s lowest bed. We’re 7” to the frame,” she says. A power drive under the bed would add about an inch to the overall height.

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The company’s newest bed, the Navigator, is also the industry’s first bed that has pinch point sensors completely surrounding it, according to Nell Westbrook. “If it senses something, the system will immediately start to back up,” she says.

Sizewise's Navigator

The rise of the smart bed
By now everyone is familiar with smart phones, but smart beds will be entering health care’s lexicon in the coming years. Manufacturers large and small are providing tools to help make it easier for hospitals to meet meaningful use requirements and having beds that can connect to a facility’s electronic health records fits the bill.

Major hospital bed manufacturers Hill-Rom and Stryker both already offer beds that communicate with health care information systems and both have plans for further advancements in that area. “We are actively looking at new technologies to be able to monitor patient physiology both directly in the bed and in proximity to the bed, while communicating that information through our bed communications systems,” says Brian Lawrence, chief technology officer, Hill-Rom. “Among the areas we are actively looking at are vital signs such as heart rate and respiratory rate, environmental parameters such as temperature, moisture, and pressure, and more advanced monitoring for wounds, bed exit and sleep,” he says.

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