Harvard study assesses EarlySense

Contact-free patient monitoring designed to cut hospital stays, reduce cost
By Bernie Monegain
06:35 AM
EarlySense sensors go under the mattress, monitor at bedside

A sensor slipped under a mattress and a bedside monitor to continuously keep tabs on a patient's vital signs, such as heart rate and oxygen levels can avoid code-blue events, reduce how long a patient stays in the hospital and save costs, according to a new Harvard University Medical School study.

Researchers reviewed outcomes of 7,643 patients who had been monitored by technology developed by Waltham, Mass.-based EarlySense and concluded that continuous monitoring with the EarlySense System on a medical-surgical unit was associated with a significant decrease in patients' total length of stay in the hospital, code-blue events and intensive care unit stay time for patients who were transferred from the medical-surgical unit to another unit, such as the ICU.

In the controlled study, the researchers compared a 33-bed medical-surgical unit to a sister control unit for a nine-month pre-implementation and a nine-month post implementation period. Results showed a decrease in the overall length of stay by 0.37 days, a reduction of 9 percent. The average stay in the ICU for patients transferred from the medical-surgical unit was significantly lower post implementation of the sensors by about two days, a 45 percent reduction. The rate of code-blue events decreased by 86 percent.

[See also: FDA clears EarlySense bedside monitor.]

The results of the study were published in the American Journal of Medicine.

"Early detection of patient deterioration in general care units should be a top priority for healthcare institutions," said David Bates, MD, in a press statement. Bates is director of the Center for Patient Safety Research and Practice, senior vice president for quality and safety and chief quality officer at Brigham & Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

"Continuous monitoring is a key factor in recognizing and promptly responding to early warning signs, which should help decrease patient morbidity and mortality, as well as length of hospital stay and costs," he added. "The study also showed the continuous monitoring used did not cause alarm fatigue, because of the analytics used by EarlySense which ‘weeds out' the false positives."

[See also: Newton-Wellesley deploys sensors.]

Current literature shows that in the 24 hours prior to ICU admission, as many as 80 percent of patients have had abnormal values for heart rate, respiratory rate and oxygenation.

The EarlySense monitoring system helps facilitate timely interventions for these high-risk patients by adding a layer of care with continuous monitoring and drawing attention to those who may show early signs of deterioration. EarlySense CEO Tim O'Malley told Healthcare IT News.

It was gratifying to see the results of the study confirmed what he and his team had observed in the field, hospital-by-hospital, he said.

O'Malley said Bates was the driver behind the Harvard study.

"He was introduced to our technology a few years ago, and really gravitated towards it, and said, 'This is technology that is needed in healthcare and this is technology that we really need to determine from a research perspective if it can have an impact on patient safety.'"

"Of course, there’s always that firewall between research and industry," O'Malley said. "There should be."

As O'Malley sees it, there is an industry responsibility to transfer the know-how to the medical field.

"We've created products, and we’ve created methodology over the years, and the know-how has really been within the industry, and I think there's really a need to transfer that know-how into the medical world, whether it's through the research people, like with Dr. Bates, or whether it's with these caregivers who are at the bedside taking care of the patients."

O'Malley met a nurse who gave him a powerful analogy. She told him that she probably used only 25 percent of her iPhone's capability. There is an analogy between what people do with their personal technology and what they do with medical technology, she said.

"I think, as an industry, we kind of have to bridge that gap. When we do, I think the outcomes like you saw in the study can be replicated."

O'Malley said that EarlySense is the sole patient surveillance company whose technology is "contact free" – not tethered to the patient, via a finger, ear or lapel.

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