Hospitals may one day be equipped with computerized “smart” beds that automatically make adjustments to accommodate a patient’s needs. The beds could be useful in stabilizing blood pressures, preventing bed sores and helping to reduce the incidence of sleep apneas, among other things. Discussions with bed manufacturers have been positive, and it’s possible the technology could be available for use within two or three years.
“Smart” computerized hospital beds may become a standard of care if negotiations between John LaCourse — professor and chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of New Hampshire — and hospital bed manufacturers bear fruit.
An algorithm LaCourse invented programs the smart bed to communicate with and respond to medical devices that monitor a patient’s condition, permitting fast, automatic responses that could prove especially valuable in the wee morning hours, when fewer staff are on hand, or whenever they are busy with other patients.
A sleeping patient’s movements might cause a blood pressure drop, for instance, that a monitor would communicate to the bed which, in turn, would move up or down until the patient’s blood pressure became stable.”Procedures such as retinal surgery require exact blood pressure levels as part of the healing process,” LaCourse explained. “A smart hospital bed would periodically adjust itself to maintain these levels for patients.”
The bed could also discern between real and fictitious readings.”Someone sits on the edge of the hospital bed, and it appears that the patient’s blood pressure has fallen,” LaCourse explained. “The bed would send a signal to the monitor not to be alarmed — the reading is due to the visitor’s presence and not because the patient’s condition has deteriorated.”
Quality-of-life conditions such as bed sores could also be addressed. “Instead of requiring hospital staff to move the patient, monitors could send signals to the bed to roll the patient to his left or right to avoid bed sores,” LaCourse told TechNewsWorld.