Each year, millions of patients are placed on opioids to relieve pain, and over 600,000 will experience opioid-related respiratory depression. Although opioids can be essential to healing, their use poses great risks as opioids affect the part of the brain that controls breathing.

Neglecting risk

The current standard of care is to use risk assessment tools to qualify which patients should be continuously electronically monitored. All other patients are monitored by “spot checks” that occur as infrequently as every 2 to 4 hours.

Therefore, a large population is left vulnerable to respiratory depression and cardiac arrest, including patients who are young, have undiagnosed medical conditions or have never been on an opioid before, they may stop breathing without alerting anyone; two-thirds of these patients cannot be resuscitated.

"...effectively implementing continuous monitoring can detect an adverse event 6 to 8 hours before it occurs."

A closer eye

There is a movement occurring on both the national and grassroots level to raise awareness of strategies that can be used to dramatically improve patient safety by monitoring all patients on parenteral opioids, regardless of their risk category. Ideally, all in-patients should be monitored, as research has shown that effectively implementing continuous monitoring can detect an adverse event 6 to 8 hours before it occurs.

It is only through sharing success stories, data and innovative strategies of how hospitals have overcome barriers to implementing continuous monitoring that the health care community can educate one another, and ensure all patients have positive outcomes. Hospitals that have implemented continuous monitoring have seen vast improvements, such as dramatic reductions in code blue events, average lengths of stay and ICU transfers, improved patient outcomes and millions of dollars saved.

By increasing awareness and integrating clinical knowledge with technology, this movement is bringing together diverse stakeholder groups—patients, clinicians, regulatory bodies, patient safety organizations and industry partners—demonstrating to the health care community how continuous electronic monitoring can, and already is, saving lives.