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NAPLES — Patients in Physicians Regional Healthcare System hospitals now have nurses' eyes and technology watching out for their safety.
The hospitals are installing cameras and sensors in many patient rooms, linked to a computer at the nurses' station to allow remote bedside monitoring.
Patients or their health-care surrogates must consent for the camera monitoring, but the intent is to enhance their safety and to help prevent falls, said Kathleen Bove, assistant chief nursing officer for the hospital system.
"Once a patient consents, only a supervisor can activate the camera," she said.
At the first stage in the new safety initiative, 79 rooms will have the equipment, starting at Physicians Regional-Pine Ridge and then the Collier Boulevard campus. The breakdown is 49 rooms at Pine Ridge and 30 rooms at the Collier campus.
A key element of the system is "virtual bed rails" — invisible motion sensors to let the nurses' station know if a patient is leaning out of the bed too far or trying to get out of the bed.
"If the patient reaches over far enough, the alarm goes off and we can immediately see what she (or he) is up to," Bove said.
Adopting the technology, called "CareView," is an undertaking of Health Management Associates, the parent company headquartered in Naples. HMA conducted a patient falls assessment in 2010 and last year at 10 company hospitals, using webcams.
"Physicians Regional Healthcare System strives to stay on the forefront of medical technology," Todd Lupton, chief executive officer of Physicians Regional, said in a statement. "Patient falls in hospitals are a national problem and we found the CareView system as an innovative way to increase patient safety for those deemed at risk to fall."
Studies show falls drive up hospital stays and costs. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons last fall estimated fall-related treatment costs at around $20 billion annually.
Falls in hospitals are the most common of preventable conditions, which prompted the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid in 2008 to stop reimbursing for the treatment costs. The agency enacted the same policy for seven other hospital-acquired conditions.
By the numbers
Data about fall rates shows the fall rate at Physicians Regional's campus on Pine Ridge Road is 0.91 for every 1,000 patient discharges, which is better than Lee Memorial Hospital's rate of 0.99 but higher than NCH Downtown Naples Hospital's fall rate of 0.71 per 1,000 discharges.
Data about fall rates and other statistics are included in the federal agency's "hospital compare" website, which gives the public a glimpse into their hometown hospitals. The website is www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov/.
The data shows the fall rate at Physicians Regional's campus on Pine Ridge Road is 0.91 for every 1,000 patient discharges, which is better than Lee Memorial Hospital's rate of 0.99 but higher than NCH Downtown Naples Hospital's fall rate of 0.71 per 1,000 discharges. Which year the data was derived from wasn't available on the federal website.
HMA, at the corporate level, decided to adopt the "CareView" system, which involves a patient room camera and monitoring system at the nurses' station; a second component that allows for recording sound in the patient's room when patient consent is given, and the virtual rail system that works by a sensor in the patient's room.
Patients targeted for the technology must be at either a high or medium risk for falls, based on a widely used risk assessment tool.
Lourdes Barrera, a registered nurse in the neurospine unit at the Pine Ridge campus, welcomes the system, which she said was easy to adapt to and learn to operate.
"It's great," Barrera said. "It has helped us prevent a lot of falls."
A cost estimate for outfitting Physicians Regional with the technology wasn't immediately available.
Bove said many hospitals nationwide are adopting some sort of patient monitoring technology and she expects it will become a standard.
"I think about 15 HMA hospitals have rolled it out," Bove said. "I think it will become a mainstay. Right now we are using it for falls but there are multiple other things we could eventually use it for."