'Smart' hospital beds may improve patient care

The smart hospital beds will communicate with and respond to medical devices that monitor a patient’s condition.

John LaCourse, professor and chair of University of New Hampshire’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is in talks with hospital bed manufacturers to adopt his programmed algorithm technology, which could become the basis for “smart” computerised hospital beds. The smart hospital beds would communicate with and respond to medical devices that monitor a patient’s condition, explained LaCourse.

“Perhaps a sleeping patient moves, causing a drop in blood pressure. The blood pressure monitor would communicate this change to the bed and the bed, in turn, would move up or down until the patients’ blood pressure is stabilised,” he noted.

Conversely, the bed would analyse faulty readings interfering with patient care.
“Someone sits on the edge of the hospital bed and it appears that the patient’s blood pressure has fallen.

The bed would send a signal to the monitor not to be alarmed—the reading is due to the visitor’s presence and not because the patient’s condition has deteriorated,” said the professor. LaCourse further stated that post-surgical needs may also be met with this technology.

“Procedures such as retinal surgery require exact blood pressure levels as part of the healing process. A smart hospital bed would periodically adjust itself to maintain these levels for patients,” he said.

Even quality-of-life conditions such as bedsores could be addressed. “Instead of requiring hospital staff to move the patient, monitors could send signals to the bed to roll the patient to his left or right to avoid bed sores,” says LaCourse.

The ultimate success of LaCourse’s project rests with incorporating a plug-and-play component to his technology.

Plug-and-play means that medical devices—from blood pressure monitors to breathing machines—“share a common technology so they can talk to each other and share patient information which greatly reduces care errors,” he said.

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