Cancer patient Aliona Grytsenko had to be woken every hour to have her vital signs checked. (ABC News: Dea Clark)
Since being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma 18 months ago, Aliona Grytsenko has spent much of her time in and out of hospital.
- Patients are fitted with wearable body sensors that record vital signs
- The technology is being trialled at the 20-bed Kilcoy Hospital until June
- It is the first time the technology has been put to the test by an entire hospital
When the 22-year-old architecture student developed an infection after having a stem cell transplant, she had to be woken every hour to have her vital signs checked.
“It made it really hard to sleep and rest in the midst of having fevers and going through the treatment and side effects themselves. It’s really difficult to manage that when you’re so sleep-deprived,” Ms Grytsenko said.
Registered nurse and researcher Elise Button has worked in cancer and palliative care for 10 years and said waking people up was one of the worst parts of the job.
“We routinely wake people up every four hours — if they’re more unwell we wake them up every hour or 15 minutes to do vital sign monitoring to make sure they’re safe,” Dr Button said.
“The sicker they are, the more we wake them up.”
The technology may put an end to what has been one of nurses’ core responsibilities — taking and recording vital signs. (ABC News)
Potential game-changer in nursing care
But new technology being trialled at the 20-bed Kilcoy Hospital, north-west of Brisbane, may put an end to what has been one of nurses’ core responsibilities — taking and recording vital signs.
Patients are being fitted with wearable body sensors that will automatically record their temperature, heart rate, oxygen levels and blood pressure.
Dr Button said it was a potential game-changer in nursing care.
“It gives us more time to focus on all the other roles that a nurse does that are important … particularly communicating with people, sitting down and talking to them, while we know they’re being safely monitored,” Dr Button said.
“This allows people who are unwell to get sleep and rest, with peace of mind that they’re being safely monitored.”
Aliona Grytsenko is fitted with sensors for the new vital signs monitoring technology. (ABC News)
The Metro North Hospital and Health Service’s Adam Scott is overseeing the trial and says the feedback so far has been positive.
“Patients have commented they no longer have to be woken through the night. They can sleep through the process,” Professor Scott said.
The wireless monitoring technology has been in development for a decade, but it is the first time in the world it has been put to the test by an entire hospital.
It could also help save hospital bottom lines.
“We have a growing level and burden of chronic disease, we have higher life expectancies … and higher community expectations on how healthcare is provided,” Professor Scott said.
“We know we have to move towards a value-based healthcare approach to better provide services and care for our patients.”
Dr Button says the technology is a potential game-changer in nursing care. (ABC News: Steve Cavanagh)
Technology could revolutionise rural medicine
The Australian distributor for the wireless monitoring device, Wearable Health Tech, estimates there are more than 100 million patient observations performed each year in Australia.
Company spokesman Ben Magid said the system not only gave time back to staff to spend on patient care, but improved patient safety through continuous monitoring.
“If patients do start to go downhill, staff are alerted so they can intervene sooner and prevent adverse events and complications from developing,” Mr Magid said.
If the trial goes well, the technology could be used more widely, allowing patients to recover at home, while still being monitored by hospital staff.
Ms Grytsenko said it would have given her peace of mind.
“In the first few weeks after the stem cell transplant you don’t know how you’re going, you don’t know, is that bad enough that I should call someone and ask or is it OK?” Ms Grytsenko said.
Professor Scott said he believed it could also revolutionise rural medicine.
“We could have a command centre located in a metropolitan city where the specialist staff are sitting supervising and looking after and viewing patients that are located in a rural facility,” Professor Scott said.
The trial will run until June.
Professor Adam Scott, sitting in front of the monitoring system’s screen, is overseeing the trial. (ABC News: Steve Cavanagh)