New technology invigorates patient monitoring markets
News Date:2008-12-10
In the United States, subacute care (SAC) - or progressive/step-down care, as it sometimes is known - is growing as a result of managed care¡¯s emphasis on minimizing use of expensive critical care units. SAC is characterized by a need for continuous vital signs monitoring, but not necessarily continuous nursing care for individual patients. Telemetry is therefore ideally suited to providing the surveillance role in SAC.
 
Medical telemetry equipment has been undergoing a quiet revolution lately. It began when Marquette Electronics (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) introduced transmitters that would send multiple ECG leads simultaneous. That was followed by Siemens Medical (Danvers, Massachusetts) adding pulse oximetry to its medical transmitters. Next came the introduction by Siemens of "international" telemetry, a design which allowed transmitters to be tuned to all of the diverse European frequency bands (which are not harmonized). Then came the innovation by Criticare Systems (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) of multi-band telemetry, incorporating pulse oximeters and other parameters into the patient transmitters themselves.
 
These enhancements did two things. First, they expanded the percentage of the world market for which telemetry was a viable monitoring solution (mostly in the international markets). Second, they expanded the types of patients monitored by telemetry from the traditional cardiac patient, to patients recovering from a variety of surgical procedures, and to patients requiring some level of respiratory monitoring. As a result of this shift, the number of more-acute patients in SAC beds has grown to account for about 2.4% of U.S. hospital beds. However, telemetry is being installed in many beds, in some cases whole wings of hospitals, which are not licensed as progressive or step-down care units and tracked by the American Hospital Association (Chicago, Illinois), so the market for such systems is somewhat bigger than it appears. The actual market size and characteristics are detailed in The Market for U.S. Telemetry Systems, a new report from Medical Strategic Planning (Lincroft, New Jersey).
 
Where¡¯s the patient?
 
While telemetry is in many situations a cost effective solution, avoiding the costs of running LAN (local area network) cabling through hospitals, it has had an Achilles heel, particularly for ambulatory patients: Where is the patient when treatment is needed? Patients on telemetry can be in their rooms, but they can also be in family waiting rooms visiting with family members, in rehab areas with therapists, or just wandering around these large clinical units. So when they arrest or collapse or need other types of stat nursing assistance the question is, where are they? That question now has an answer, thanks to Marquette Electronics, which has teamed with Versus Technology (Traverse City, Michigan) to adapt the IntelliMotion infrared sensor system to track patients and display their location right on the central nursing station monitors which show their ECG waveforms and other vital signs.
 
Now when a life-threatening alarm occurs, the nurse knows precisely where the patient is located and can reach him quickly without launching disruptive searches of the entire nursing unit. By coupling this system with nurse ID badges, central station personnel also can immediately locate the responsible or closest nurse to respond to the patient¡¯s need, saving additional precious seconds. In patients in arrest or other life-threatening crisis, this knowledge literally can be the difference between life and death. An added benefit of the system is that all communications are point-to-point, and the need for annoying and alarming overhead pages throughout an entire nursing unit are avoided.
 
Marquette is the first to apply this new technology to patient monitoring. The application is intelligent, as the IR badges are already recognized devices in the healthcare setting, and the combination of this external input avoids regulatory complications which using RF (radio frequency) approaches as part of the basic transmitter itself would surely incur. The other benefit of this add-on design is that it can be easily and cost-effectively retrofit to existing telemetry installations.
 
A challenge to other suppliers
 
By adding proven patient location ability to its telemetry systems, Marquette is throng down the gauntlet to Hewlett-Packard (Andover, Massachusetts), Spacelabs (Redmond, Washington), and OEM supplier Vitalcom (Tustin, California) to add that capability to its existing products to maintain parity with Marquette. In time, those suppliers will respond by meeting this challenge, at which point telemetry systems in the U.S. will have gained an important new modality in providing care to ambulatory patients.
 
The addition of diffuse infrared tracking technology to conventional telemetry adds from $1,500 to $2,500 per bed to the system costs, which equips both nursing staff and patients with IR locators. Basic telemetry system costs average $6,500 to $7,500 per bed, with an additional $15,000 to $35,000 per system (depending upon whether the system has full-disclosure integrated into the central design, a la Nihon Koden (Irvine, California), or added on, a la Marquette) if ECG full-disclosure is required.
 
Copy from: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m3570/is_n11_v19/ai_18913196  
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