Smart hospital beds improve patient care

A new study into hospital bed technology could soon represent a giant leap forward in patient care.

A new study into hospital bed technology could soon represent a giant leap forward in patient care.

John LaCourse, professor and chair of University of New Hampshire`s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is in talks with hospital bed manufacturers to adopt his programmed algorithm technology, which could become the basis for `smart` computerized hospital beds.

The smart hospital beds would communicate with and respond to medical devices that monitor a patient`s condition, explained LaCourse.

"Perhaps a sleeping patient moves, causing a drop in blood pressure. The blood pressure monitor would communicate this change to the bed and the bed, in turn, would move up or down until the patients` blood pressure is stabilized," he noted.

Conversely, the bed would analyze faulty readings interfering with patient care.

"Someone sits on the edge of the hospital bed and it appears that the patient`s blood pressure has fallen.

The bed would send a signal to the monitor not to be alarmed – the reading is due to the visitor`s presence and not because the patient`s condition has deteriorated," said the professor.

LaCourse further stated that post-surgical needs may also be met with this technology.

"Procedures such as retinal surgery require exact blood pressure levels as part of the healing process. A smart hospital bed would periodically adjust itself to maintain these levels for patients," he said.

Even quality-of-life conditions such as bedsores could be addressed. "Instead of requiring hospital staff to move the patient, monitors could send signals to the bed to roll the patient to his left or right to avoid bed sores," says LaCourse.

The ultimate success of LaCourse`s project, which also features contributions by graduate and undergraduate students, rests with incorporating a plug-and-play component to his technology.

Plug-and-play means that medical devices – everything from blood pressure monitors to breathing machines – "share a common technology so they can, in effect, talk to each other and share patient information which greatly reduces care errors," he explained.

To realize plug-and-play capability, however, LaCourse`s technology must become the industry standard for hospital bed manufacturers.

LaCourse is making significant progress in his quest.

"We`ve had discussions with two major bed manufacturers – Stryker and Hilrom – and both were receptive to our protocols," he said.