Sensors may keep hospitalized patients from falling

April 24, 2014 by Sarah Burton, University of Arizona
UA researchers are using wearable sensors to predict patients' risk of falls.

(Medical Xpress)—To keep hospitalized patients safer, University of Arizona researchers are working on new technology that involves a small, wearable sensor that measures a patient's activity, heart rate, wakefulness and other biometrics – data that can predict a fall before it happens.

More than 500,000 hospitalized patients fall each year in U.S. hospitals, resulting in 150,000 injuries, according to an estimate from the National Patient Safety Foundation.

The problem prompted Cindy Rishel, the University of Arizona Medical Center's administrator of nursing research and practice, to find a solution.

"We currently use the Heinrich II fall to determine patients' risk for falling," Rishel explained. "But it's not as thorough as we'd like, and often our assessment of risk is subjective when based on patient self-reporting."

Bijan Najafi, UA associate professor of surgery, medicine and engineering and director of the interdisciplinary Consortium on Advanced Motion Performance, or iCAMP, along with his team of engineers, welcomed the challenge.

In the study, Najafi and his team are using Zephyr BioModule sensors to continuously track patients' skin temperature, physical activity, , respirations and echocardiogram readings. The more than 2 gigabytes of patient data collected daily per sensor is then plotted against an algorithm that estimates fall risk.

Zephyr Technology, based in Annapolis, Maryland, agreed to lend UAMC the equipment and technology for the study, with any additional costs and staff time provided by iCAMP, an interdisciplinary research and development collaboration among a host of teams, including podiatric and vascular surgery, orthopedics, nursing, geriatrics, anthropology and engineering at the UA.

The will collect a massive amount of data regarding patient activity while in the hospital, and will help more accurately pinpoint which patients are most likely to fall. Although the study is solely collecting data for this phase, eventually the system could be used to alert nursing staff or even a family member when a fall seems imminent.

The yearlong study began in September 2013 in a hematology/oncology unit at UAMC – University Campus. The population was chosen for its typically longer hospital stays and increased risk for and bleeding.

"Our patients enjoy being a part of research studies because they understand these things strengthen our ability to care for them," said Jessica Schroder, a UAMC registerd nurse and clinical leader of the unit involved in the study. "The Zephyr sensor is small and lightweight, and our patients like that it doesn't beep or blink at them like many other things they get hooked up to."

So far, 43 have participated. Najafi and Rishel are in the process of requesting an extension to allow them to involve 100 participants and further strengthen their findings.

"We are lucky to have the support of the nursing staff in the participating unit, which is key to ensure the final product is patient-centric," Najafi said.

Explore further: Study uses video-game device with goal of preventing patient falls

Related Stories

Study uses video-game device with goal of preventing patient falls

March 18, 2014
Technology used in video games is making its way to hospital rooms, where researchers at the University of Missouri hope to learn new ways to prevent falls among hospital patients.

Can a sensor prevent diabetic foot amputation?

February 12, 2013
In the global effort to prevent diabetic foot amputations, one of the most effective tools is a fairly simple, comfortable boot.

Study: 21 percent of newly admitted nursing home residents sustain a fall during their stay

June 20, 2012
One in five short-stay nursing home patients sustains a fall after their admission, and certified nursing assistant (CNA) staffing is associated with decreased fall risk, according to a study in the Journal of the American ...

Educating heart patients, families cut one hospital's falls by 64 percent

May 15, 2011
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center had noticed that, despite a hospital-wide program to prevent patient falls, the cardiovascular progressive care unit experienced an increase in the rate of patient falls. ...

Study: Intensive exercise training program for dementia patients improves care in clinical setting

January 9, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—A study by researchers at the University of Arizona Department of Surgery, published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, showed that an innovative, customized exercise program applied to clinical practice ...

Longer nurse tenure on hospital units leads to higher quality care

April 14, 2014
When it comes to the cost and quality of hospital care, nurse tenure and teamwork matters. Patients get the best care when they are treated in units that are staffed by nurses who have extensive experience in their current ...

Recommended for you

Group suggests pushing age of adolescence to 24

January 22, 2018
A small group of researchers with the Royal Children's Hospital in Australia is suggesting that it might be time to change the span of years that define adolescence—from the current 10 to 19 to a proposed 10 to 24 years ...

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.