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Bed exit system prototype

Southern Health News, December 2019

Bed exit system shows promise as a future falls prevention tool

A new prototype tool capable of detecting when a hospital patient attempts to get out of bed is in development at Flinders Medical Centre.

Hospital falls data shows that falls most commonly occur when a patient attempts to get out of bed, or out of a chair.

Previous work has been carried out by the Biomedical Engineering Department at Flinders Medical Centre, but this project - undertaken by Biomedical Engineering Honours student Kam Kianoush under the supervision of the team - addresses the challenge with a whole new perspective.

The bed exit detection system uses images captured by a thermal camera installed in the ward to predict when a patient is attempting to exit a bed, and prompts an alarm at the nurses’ station. A nurse can then assist the patient to exit the bed – and prevent a possible fall.

The system can also identify when an arm or leg is hanging out of a bed, which typically happens before a patient rolls out of bed and onto the floor.

SA Biomedical Engineering Technical Manager, Dr Olivia Lockwood, said the team had been working with Ward 5A within FMC for some time to develop a simple but effective falls management tool.

“Ward 5A is an ideal fit, because many of the patients are frail and elderly and have dementia or memory loss, and research shows that falls are more common amongst these patient groups – particularly at night.”

Olivia said initiatives trialled in the past had included installing lights above patients’ beds and in the ward bathrooms; and installing pressure mats fitted with alarms on chairs and beds, but the new prototype showed promise as a simple but effective tool.

“It’s still early days, but the prototype is certainly showing promise as a reliable bed exit warning system.”

Kam Kianoush said the system he was developing was a contact-free monitoring system that preserves patient’s privacy without compromising the system reliability.

“It is easy to operate and has less complexity than other comparable systems in terms of falls algorithms and components. Moreover, it works even when a patient is under a blanket.”

The prototype is soon expected to undergo ethics committee approvals, before it is tested in Ward 5A. Eventually, it is hoped to introduce the system across FMC and SALHN’s other acute sites.

Operational Nursing Director of SALHN Rehabilitation, Aged Care and Palliative Care, Petra Bierer, said falls prevention strategies were multifactorial, and clinicians aimed to minimise falls in their everyday assessments.

“If this tool can be an addition to the falls prevention strategies, then this will be beneficial,” she said.

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