By James Tran
Vizient Senior Category Manager, Capital
The healthcare industry is constantly evolving, with new technologies and innovations developed every day to improve patient outcomes and provide better care. Some health systems are even developing “smart” hospitals that deploy everything from artificial intelligence and Internet of Things (IoT) to 5G networks and other technologies to improve connectivity and data sharing for elevated patient care, more streamlined workforces and cost reduction.
One smart technology that has the potential to revolutionize patient care, particularly at the point of treatment and convalescence, is smart wireless medical beds, which can improve everything from patient comfort and safety to staff availability.
How do smart wireless beds work?
Smart wireless medical beds are equipped with advanced technology to improve patient comfort, safety and care. These beds are designed to be fully adjustable, allowing patients to change their position easily and without assistance. The beds work by using a combination of sensors, wireless communication technology and computer software to monitor and control various aspects of the bed's operation. These sensors can detect changes in a patient's position, movement and vital signs, and then relay this information to medical staff in real time.
The bed's software also can be programmed to automatically adjust positioning based on the patient's needs, such as raising the head of the bed to help with breathing or lowering the foot of the bed to alleviate pressure on the legs. This automation helps to reduce the manual labor required by medical staff, freeing them up to focus on other aspects of patient care.
What are the major benefits?
There are several benefits to using smart wireless medical beds in healthcare facilities. These include:
- Improved patient comfort: One study describes hospital beds are one of the most interacted with medical devices by patients and medical personnel, and whether the interactions between the hospital beds and their users become efficient or inefficient highly depends on the comfort of those beds. Many smart beds include everything from intuitive, easy-to-use graphical screens and continuous full-body pressure redistribution to noninvasive physiological monitoring.
- Increased patient safety: By automatically detecting and alerting medical staff to changes in a patient's wellbeing, the beds can help lower the risk of complications or adverse events. Smart beds gather biometric data about a patient's movements, including heart rate, breathing and temperature, and in some instances, they also can monitor the temperature, noise and light in their environment. Some also include night lights that illuminate the area around a patient if they leave the bed, helping reduce the risk of falls.
- Better use of medical staff time: Lack of labor is one of the most pervasive issues currently affecting the healthcare industry and there are numerous calls to allow providers to perform top-of-license treatment. The automation provided by smart wireless medical beds reduces manual labor, whether in adjusting patient positioning or simple monitoring, allowing medical staff to focus on the deeper, more difficult aspects of patient care. In the home environment, these beds can similarly aid caregivers.
- Enhanced patient outcomes: By providing better comfort, safety and care, smart wireless medical beds have the potential to improve patient outcomes and reduce the length of hospital stays. That is especially true in the case of pressure wounds, which were only one of two hospital-acquired conditions that increased during COVID, likely due to the logistical difficulties of repositioning patients as often as necessary. Smart beds can alleviate that particular problem for immobile patients.
The future is here — and it continues to evolve
What's perhaps most exciting about smart technologies is that their capabilities, while already astounding, are only growing. As providers work to improve patient experience and outcomes, incorporating the smart technologies currently available can assist in that important mission.
About the author
James Tran is a senior category manager on the medical capital equipment team under the capital equipment solutions domain where he works closely with suppliers in hospital beds, stretchers, safe patient handling equipment, exam room equipment, and other various medical capital equipment categories including the rental of hospital beds and medical equipment. Before working at Vizient, Tran served eight years in the U.S. Navy as a combat medic and aerospace medicine technician, and also worked for Baylor University Medical Center, Health Texas Provider Network, and as a health administrator for a DFW-based medical practice that served the metroplex. He has a Master of Science in health administration and clinical practice management from Texas Tech University.