Bedside monitors — once the exclusive property of the ICU — are progressively making their way throughout the hospital. Faced with personnel shortages, increased regulations and decreased reimbursements, hospitals are mining the possibilities available in patient monitoring as a way to improve safety, efficiency and the bottom line. Nowadays, having a good bedside manner could mean having the latest in bedside monitoring.

 In the good old days of patient monitoring, a handful of monitors might be found in the ICU, and only the sickest patients would be candidates for electronic tracking. When a patient needed a monitor, he or she would be transferred to the ICU and hooked up to one.

But times, they are a’ changing. Bedside monitors have invaded the entire healthcare enterprise.

Lesla Orsino, business manager for Datascope (Mahwah, N.J.), confirms, “We’re seeing an overall bed increase in the number of patients monitored.”

Twenty years ago, in a 100-bed hospital, the hospital might have had the capability to monitor 15 patients. Today, that same hospital just might have the capability to monitor 50 patients. And those monitors can be found just about anywhere — in the emergency department (ED), on the telemetry floor or in a step-down ward.

According to Orsino, there are several factors driving increased use of monitoring.

First, there is the patient safety factor. As the population ages, patients in the hospital tend to be more acute and require more monitoring. Monitoring serves as an early warning system that allows nurses to care for more patients and increases workflow and efficiency. Adding monitoring capabilities can also be good PR for the hospital; it can market its interest in safety. And no profit-minded facility wants to move a patient to the ICU merely because he or she requires monitoring. Hence the need for monitoring throughout the hospital.

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