GE Tests Smart Patient Room to Monitor Patient Safety, Cut Medical Errors

 
 
By Brian T. Horowitz  |  Posted 2010-09-16
 
 
 

GE Healthcare has received the go-ahead from the Institutional Review Board at Bassett Medical Center, in Cooperstown, N.Y., to begin testing its Smart Patient Room health-monitoring technology at the facility.  

Part of GE's Healthymagination initiative, the Smart Patient Room can determine, among other things, whether soap and sanitizer dispensers are used by medical personnel before and after seeing a patient. 

According to Scott Gallagher, a senior consultant for GE Healthcare, RFID sensors are installed in dispensers for soap or alcohol-based hand sanitizers to determine when medical personnel are using them and following hygiene protocol. 

In addition to hand hygiene compliance, the technology tracks when patients get in and out of bed to help prevent falls. The Smart Patient Room also monitors clinical roundups to ensure that clinicians check in on patients at least once per hour, Gallagher told eWEEK. 

The technology consists of optical sensors, RFID tags, facial recognition, computer vision algorithms, cameras and speakers installed in existing hospital rooms to monitor patient safety and reduce medical errors, according to GE. Medical errors are a leading cause of death in the United States, organizations such as the Institute of Medicine and Millennium Research Group have reported.

According to Gallagher, an AI engine sits on top of the RFID signals. "Through computer vision algorithms, we can detect people and track them as they go through the room," he said. The monitoring system then issues an alert when it detects a risk, such as patient movement or facial expressions indicating a possible stroke. A doctor or nurse can then check on the patient to either make sure the patient is safe or start treatment. 

"Our goal here is to use this approach to sense the motion, action of individuals, and then determine whether they're within a given policy and work toward better outcomes," Peter Tu, research scientist for GE's Global Research Center, told eWEEK.  

Likening the Smart Patient Room platform to an iPhone running an abundance of applications, Tu expects hospitals to use the technology to detect patient delirium, particularly as a result of a medication reaction; check for ulcers; and watch for signs of pain or stroke based on facial expressions.  

Tu noted that the wires are connected to sensors behind the walls and that PCs would transmit motion and action rather than actual video to protect patients' privacy. "We ensure privacy of individuals," he said. 

Gallagher added that the sensors and monitoring would not be visible to patients. "What's important is that the technology is transparent to the patient and to the care provider," he explained. "It's the data that comes from the sensor technology that creates the value for the hospital." 

The technology was developed at GE's Global Research Center in Niskayuna, N.Y., and will be tested at the Bassett Medical Center inpatient teaching facility. The pilot project marks GE's first implementation of the Smart Patient Room in a clinical environment, according to Gallagher. 

"Up to this point we've been refining and developing this technology at the GE Global Research Center, essentially in a lab setup to mock a patient room," Gallagher said. He explained that the "chaos and uncertainty" of a live hospital setting will be required to create a reliable product that is ready for commercial use.

GE announced the project on Sept. 15 at its Global Research Center's Future of Health Care Technology event. The product could be available for commercial use by hospitals within a year or two, Gallagher said. 

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