Doctors, nurses, and all health practitioners alike carry a tremendous burden on their shoulders. They are tasked with the great responsibility of keeping patients healthy and safe. This is an ancient responsibility, dating back to the 5th century when Hippocrates, a Greek physician, first instituted the Hippocratic Oath. While only physicians are expected to say this oath or a similar version of it, its principles have remained a foundation of the medical system from generation to generation. Fortunately for the healthcare ecosystem, medical methods and tools used by our predecessors have progressed and evolved to better suit patient needs.
Today, physicians and care professionals have vast archives of medical knowledge at their fingertips and a multitude of devices at their disposal. Many of these modern devices and technologies have been dubbed “smart” and use AI and machine learning to improve patient care and outcomes. However, there is still one crucial aspect of patient care that has yet to undergo a technological renaissance: patient monitoring.
An estimated 65% of hospital patients and over 90% of post-acute care patients are “spot-checked” today. This means health staff are manually checking patients once every four to eight hours for key vital signs parameters and patient-specific issues.
According to the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations clause 42CFR 482.23(b), hospitals participating in Medicare are required to "have adequate numbers of licensed registered nurses, licensed practical (vocational) nurses, and other personnel to provide nursing care to all patients as needed.” However, the lack of a clearly defined ratio further compounds the spot-checking challenge, resulting in health teams relying heavily on intermittent information that can easily translate into increased patient risk.
For the average medical/surgery unit patient, the only time they will be continuously monitored is during and immediately following an emergency admission or surgery. Let’s take a typical knee replacement surgery as an example. An elderly patient gets wheeled into the operating room to be greeted by an orthopedic surgeon, an anesthesiologist, and multiple nurses. The patient to staff ratio is clearly in favor of the patient, an estimated 4:1, at least. Post operation, the patient is then taken to the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) and put under careful watch by nurses, and even a floating anesthesiologist, for a few hours in a recommended 1:2 (estimated) patient to staff ratio. In both the operating room and PACU, the patient is monitored on a continuous basis.