It’s 9:00 pm. You’re in the hospital with Ryan, your 16-year-old son who is recovering from surgery following a sports injury. It’s been an uncomfortable 24 hours since the football accident, but the doctors were professional and the prognosis is good. You’re expecting to be released in the next few days and head home for the night once he drifts off to sleep.

Warning signs

The next day you arrive to check up on him and you notice he is shivering but the staff assures you that it’s probably just a side-effect of the anesthesia. By evening, he is looking worse. A quick checkup by the doctor shows his vital signs to be within the norm, just elevated slightly.

By morning, he is feeling much worse, has a fever and his heart rate is over 100. The doctor determines that he most likely has sepsis and begins IV antibiotics immediately.

What is sepsis?

Sepsis is a life-threatening illness that can affect people of every age, occurring in 1 in 50 cases of hospitalization in the developed world. It is particularly dangerous because diagnosing it early is challenging.

"Constant monitoring of vital signs can help health professionals detect the signs of SIRS/sepsis earlier, which means faster treatment."

However, early detection is critical.

Statistically, every hour that passes increases the likelihood of mortality by 7.6 percent. Diagnosing sepsis involves exhibiting at least 2 of 3 symptoms (and then drawing blood for laboratory analysis): body temperature above 101 or below 96.8, heart rate of above 90 and respiratory rate of 22. Yet many patients only have their vital signs checked once every 4-6 hours and standard counting for respiratory rate is notoriously inaccurate.

Full assessment

In addition, recent Society of Critical Care Medicine guidelines suggest a clinician to assess a patient for altered mental state, systolic blood pressure of 100 mmHg or less and respiration rate of 22 breaths per minute or greater.

Constant monitoring of vital signs can help health professionals detect the signs of SIRS/sepsis earlier, which means faster treatment. In our story, Ryan responds well to the anti-biotics and recovers, but many sepsis patients are far less fortunate, often times resulting in medical complications, organ failure and even death.

Contact-free early detection

Rather than have Ryan hooked up to wired monitors, which would limit his movement, he could have been monitored in a contact-free manner by EarlySense, an FDA-cleared device that has already been used to monitor over 330,000 patients around the world. A sensor is placed under the mattress of a person’s bed and measures heart rate, respiratory rate and body motion, without the need to touch the body. By measuring these parameters constantly accurate, continuous data is made available to health professionals on an ongoing and immediate basis, without increasing workload.

To better help support hospital protocol for detection of adverse events, such as sepsis, a multi-parameter alert monitors elevated parameters over time and alerts staff to potential warning signs. The real-time data can be seen at hospital workstations or on mobile devices of health care professionals, which helps create much more rapid response to aberrations.

Early detection via constant monitoring of patients in hospitals is critical not only for better patient care but for keeping health care costs down—by limiting hospital readmission and early treatment of disease. Health care professionals too will enjoy a better working environment with improved data and fewer alarms, which means improved care and experience for patients on their watch.