Lourdes Health System has begun using small wireless sensors that stick to the skin and help prevent pressure ulcers in bedridden patients.
The painful ulcers, commonly called bedsores, are caused by pressure or stress on skin and tissue typically around bones like heels and tailbone, and result in reduced blood flow to the area.
“It is a very painful thing that can lead to other complications. An open wound can allow other infections to set in, and they take a long time to heal,” said Michele Wargo, a registered nurse and director of nursing systems at Lourdes.
To prevent bedsores, hospital staff turn patients every two hours, and by at least 20 degrees, using pillows and other things to help prop them up and relieve any pressure.
The Leaf Patient Monitoring System sensors, developed by Leaf Healthcare, are similar in size to the electrodes used with heart monitors, and are placed on a patient’s chest. Tiny triaxial accelerometers inside track the patient’s position in bed and any movement or activity, and transmit the data to hospital staff. The sensors help keep track of the schedule and determine if patients are turned completely, Wargo said.
“What it’s giving us is the ability to see the quality of the turning. You may think that you’ve turned the patient, but you haven’t been able to complete that 20-degree turn that takes the pressure off the bony prominences,” she said.
More than 2.5 million people nationwide develop bedsores each year, and 60,000 die as a result, according to the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which tracks bedsores and several other hospital-acquired complications.
The most recent data available found that Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden had 0.09 bedsores per 1,000 patients discharged between July 1, 2013, and June 30, 2015; Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County in Willingboro had 1.10. The average rate for hospitals nationwide was 0.45.
To help improve patient safety and outcomes, Trinity Health, the parent organization of Lourdes, provided the health system with a $382,000 grant for a pilot program using the sensors at Our Lady of Lourdes in Camden. Wargo said the hospital has used the sensors on about 50 patients in the last two weeks, and plans to expand the program if it is successful.
“While we have made great strides, we continually look for new ways to prevent pressure ulcers,” said Dr. Alan Pope, Lourdes’ chief medical officer. “We believe this innovative technology will help decrease the incidence of pressure ulcers, ultimately helping improve patient-centered care.”