More than 2.5 million people in the United States develop pressure ulcers each year, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Also known as bedsores, these ulcers result from a lack of movement, usually involving immobile patients in bed or wheelchairs. Pressure ulcers that occur in hospitals are called hospital-acquired pressure injuries (HAPI). Pressure injuries account for higher patient fatality rates, increased patient discomfort, longer hospital stays, and cost $9.1 to $11.6 billion annually.
Leaf Healthcare recently announced the results of two large-scale studies that resulted in data showing the effectiveness and cost savings of the Leaf Patient Monitoring System. We first wrote about the Leaf system in 2015. The Leaf wearable is designed to prevent bedsores by monitoring patient movements. The waterproof device is placed on the patient’s upper torso; it weighs less than an ounce and runs for more than three weeks with a battery charge. The Leaf wearable connects to proprietary antennas throughout the hospital or other care facilities. The antennas receive and transmit sensor data to a central system that monitors patient movement and signals caregivers when patients need to be repositioned. A study at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, California showed a 50% improvement in patient repositioning with the Leaf system. A second study, carried out by the Stanford School of Medicine, found an 85% reduction in HAPI when used in intensive care units compared to control groups that did not use the Leaf system.
Additional clinical trials with Leaf and other monitoring systems are needed to assess the validity and reliability of the studies Leaf reported. The significant incidence and costs of HAPIs fuel further research. Clinical studies of wearable tech with positive results validate products already available and motivate further development. Positive results and cost savings also encourage hospitals and other healthcare facilities to take notice of wearable technologies.