Nurses trial device that alerts them to potential falls on ward

The technology monitors thermal outline of patients in bed 

The technology monitors thermal outline of patients in bed 

Picture: iStock

A thermal sensor alarm system that identifies patients who might be about to fall out of bed is being trialled at a trust in England.

The System to Avoid Falls Events (SAFE) technology has been developed by Lancaster-based firm Rinicare.

Nurses are alerted by a flashing icon

The SAFE system on a mobile phone

The device monitors the thermal outline of the person, relative to the edges of the bed. It shows the bed as a coloured icon on a screen at the nurses’ station, or on nurses’ hand-held devices such as phones or tablets.

The icon flashes and makes a sound if a patient starts moving towards the edge of the bed or attempts to leave the bed.

Six of the devices are being trialled on a ward for frail and older patients at Royal Lancaster Infirmary, part of University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust. 

Devices will bring less noise and disruption

Ward manager Laura Wong said the new technology will make a huge difference to patient care because the ward currently uses pressure-sensitive mats, which sound an alarm to alert staff to potential falls. 

‘At present, we can have multiple [mat] alarms going off at the same time, and sometimes nurses don't know where these are coming from,’ she said.

‘My hopes are for a quieter ward – especially at night – because the mats are so disruptive.

‘We would also like to see a reduction in falls and happier staff, who don’t have to listen to that constant bleeping.’

The technology protects patients’ privacy

Søren Udby

Rinicare project manager Søren Udby said each device is ‘small, inconspicuous, has no lights, no sounds and there are no moving parts’. 

‘We wouldn’t want to put CCTV up for data protection reasons, so we have decided to use a thermal sensor instead of an optical camera,’ he said.

‘The device provides absolute privacy for the patients as no personal or medical information is collected by the system. 

‘Even if a fall can’t be prevented, the nursing staff can get to the patient sooner.’

The trial of the device will conclude in April 2020.

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