The Evolution of Inpatient Monitoring

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By Brad Playford

The healthcare industry has evolved tremendously amid technological advancements and has been pushed even further by the coronavirus pandemic. Not only have health care systems and workers had to adapt to new environments and processes, they are consistently seeking innovative methods of care to keep everyone safe.

Hospital systems require cost-effective, cutting-edge solutions to enhance both patient care and the staff care experience—especially when providing inpatient monitoring. Thus, the healthcare industry will continue to improve how it monitors at-risk or infected patients and strive toward standardization. What began as one-to-one inpatient “patient sitting” will transform into a service model for healthcare systems looking to trend forward. 

Historically, there has been a need for 24/7 one-to-one sitters for at-risk patients. In this setting, a designated hospital staff member would be in the room monitoring a patient to prevent falls, self-harm or other adverse events. This type of monitoring may be necessary for certain high-risk patients who need someone to always be present in the hospital room. While one-to-one sitters provide an intense surveillance for one patient at a time, these safety attendants can be both costly and difficult on care staff. Oftentimes, a one-to-one setup puts caregivers in dangerous scenarios with volatile patients or infected environments. Another downside is it causes stress by removing a nursing assistant from helping all the patients in a nursing unit to being contained in one room with just one patient. As such, hospitals have had to eliminate wasteful practices, leading them to audiovisual monitoring. 

The need for a more effective monitoring system sparked the innovative use of telehealth in an inpatient setting. Many hospital systems turned to continuous care audiovisual monitoring to improve care and reduce costs. As hospital systems are lacking modernized technologies, the advancement of tools like audiovisual monitoring help address those issues. Wireless, mobile monitoring devices allow caregivers to interact with patients via digital visual and audio and are much more secure than other consumer surveillance devices such as deer-cams or baby monitors.

Advanced 24/7 remote safety monitoring improves patient safety across the entire health system, resulting in lower cost of care and increased workforce efficiency. Off-site monitoring technicians allow for a 16:1 patient ratio—increasing efficiency and patient capacity hospital-wide. Nursing assistants are able to have more hands-on experience on the floor by replacing a one-to-one sitter with remote continuous monitoring staff. This type of monitoring has proven to be a force-multiplier, allowing for much more flexible staffing and ensuring an effective, secure way to attend to patients without risk.

Audiovisual monitoring allows hospital staff to continuously monitor patients who might be suicidal, are experiencing drug and alcohol withdrawals, or are at-risk for falls. This option keeps the patient in a safe environment while protecting the caregivers who interact with them. Within the continuous care model, trained technicians are able to manage patients from a centralized location. Healthcare systems work with one vendor and one platform, providing a central monitoring network capable of supporting an entire system. 

Such technology acts as an extension to the healthcare provider, a force multiplier and cost-reduction driver. It offers system-wide centralized care provisioning and standardization as well as documented sustainable outcomes. In fact, it results in dramatic adverse event rate reduction on monitored patients. The use of these solutions was a significant transition from the 24/7 one-to-one sitters.

What is yet to come? There will be a course change in the use of this technology, to reach the ultimate goal of benefitting patients and employees. Telehealth’s inpatient monitoring will continue to evolve into a service model where there will be an entirely new definition of patient care. Its capabilities already provide high quality visual and audio capabilities as well as network security. The next phase of patient monitoring will be a service model rather than training hospital staff. In this scenario, hospitals would outsource monitoring technicians from third-party vendors to expand their resources even further to reach overall better scenarios for caregivers and patients. 

As patient monitoring has transitioned from one-on-one sitters to audiovisual monitoring and beyond, there continue to be new applications in patient care. We must continue to trend forward toward the service model. These advancements help hospitals provide more continuous monitoring, while reducing costs, and keeping patients and providers safer as we lean on nurses more than ever before.

Telehealth will become a dominant player in care delivery in the future. There is an increased emphasis on quality, efficiency and patient and family satisfaction with care during this time of low operating margins. The future service model of inpatient monitoring will address these challenges to achieve efficiency.

Brad Playford is the founder and CEO of AvaSure.

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