IoT in Acute-Care Settings?

The “Internet of Things” (IoT) has been an increasingly popular topic of discussion in recent years, including in terms of its potential to better connect patients and providers in health care settings. (NOTE: For those still seeking to wrap their heads around the concept, this Forbes article offers one of the better definitions of IoT.) Now, a recent study is shedding light on the role that IoT devices can play in assisting providers with patient monitoring in an acute-care environment. As Fierce Healthcare first reported, a pilot study published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) found that the use of IoT devices successfully helped to prevent bed falls in a Massachusetts teaching hospital, resulting in improved patient outcomes as well as cost savings.

Each year, the study’s authors note, as many as one million patients experience bed falls while they are hospitalized. What’s more, these falls can cost as much as $14,000 per incident, given that they often lead to the need for extra hospitalization; hospitals are forced to absorb these costs themselves. To test the efficacy of an IoT fall-prevention system called SensableCare, researchers placed sensor pads in the beds of a group of patients deemed to be at high risk of suffering bed falls. With each “bed-exit attempt,” nursing staff members would receive alerts on their mobile devices, allowing them to quickly respond. The results? “During the study period, 91 patients used the system for 234.0 patient-days and experienced no bed falls.”

Ultimately, the researchers deemed the pilot study—likely the first of its kind—to be a success. Reflecting on focus groups with nursing staff, they also note that the system, beyond its efficacy when it comes to fall prevention, was easy for providers to use. Staff tended to respond quickly to alerts, and described the system as “helpful,” particularly given the challenging patient population with whom they were working. Further, it could relatively easily “be integrated into the existing nursing workflow.” While the study’s authors urge future research, and while Fierce Healthcare notes that there are “security concerns” that can come with IoT devices, there is clearly strong potential for their use in acute-care settings.

Click here for the article from Fierce Healthcare on the IoT bed-fall prevention study.

Click here for the bed-fall prevention study published in JMIR.

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