por John W. Mitchell
, Senior Correspondent | March 11, 2019
From the March 2019 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
Before there were CT and MR scanners, before electronic medical records and robotic surgery – even before the stethoscope – there was the hospital bed. The gurney, stretcher, litter or whatever it might be called is the equipment that most hospital patients first encounter.
Take it away, and hospital operations would come to a standstill. Fortunately, the once lowly hospital bed is emerging as a medical device taking an active role within a modern, interconnected medical facility.
“Beds are becoming highly configurable. Manufacturers are offering a high degree of customization with a multitude of options to choose from,” Ismael Cordero, senior project engineer at ECRI Institute told HCB News. “Bed designs are changing to improve patient experience: Verbal alerts to patients, USB charging ports, storage areas for patient devices, nightlights, and patient control of mattress firmness.”
He said that ECRI had seen a steady rise in interest for "smart beds" for both medical-surgical and critical care applications. For example, verbal commands such as "care team have been called" or "brake not set" can help both patients and caregivers better understand the safety environment. Safety status icons projected onto the floor can quickly alert caregivers of fall-risk conditions, such as when the bed is not in its lowest position or when the bed exit alert is not on.
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Healthcare facility interest in patient beds built with smart capabilities have been on the ascendency in recent years, and is observable across all types of inpatient healthcare facilities, according to Neff Conner, analyst at MD Buyline. Beds designed to care for obese, or bariatric, patients to avoid staff injuries are also a prominent trend he cited.
"Patient safety, patient comfort, and caregiver safety are of primary importance to the hospitals, so these factors are driving this trend that we have been monitoring over the past decade," Conner told HCB News. "We expect to see greater interest in smart beds as older beds age out of their useful lifespan. This increase will most likely remain steady since the useful life expectancy for patient beds is ten years and up."