One tenth of the 85,000 patients discharged annually from UK intensive care units (ICUs) apparently recovering from their acute illness, die before leaving hospital. Frequent visits to the patients’ wards by the ICU nursing team reduce this risk, but suitably-trained nurses are expensive and in short supply.
The research team plans to develop a comfortable, wearable physiological monitoring device linked to computers with ‘knowledge’ of patterns of vital signs in post-ICU patients. This device will automatically measure vital signs and detect the warning signs of serious problems in patients discharged from the ICU.
Using the hospital wi-fi network, they will monitor the patients’ vital signs continuously using a computer system programmed with information on each individual patient’s risk of deterioration, obtained during their ICU stay. If the computer detects a change in the patients’ vital signs, it will alert medical staff. This approach will allow hospitals to monitor far more patients for a far longer time than would be possible using nurses alone, whilst minimising false alarms by tailoring the alarm limits to each individual patient.
Even modestly reducing these post-ICU deaths to one in twelve discharged patients would save 1,400 lives annually – equivalent to more than half the road deaths in Great Britain. Compliance with government guidance, reduced costs, improved safety and a reduction in insurance premiums will all be used to persuade healthcare teams to adopt the system.