How can video improve patient care?

Paul Baratta

Healthcare facilities have long used video for protecting people and property, but how can traditional video surveillance be used to improve patient monitoring and care?

A complement to telemetry for critical care monitoring

Cardiac monitors, ventilators, infusion pumps… The machines that medical professionals rely on to sustain life and monitor the critically ill, can also generate false or nuisance alarms.

Over time, medical teams suffering from “alarm fatigue” become de-sensitized to the incessant beeping and dismiss, turn off, or simply don’t notice an alarm, sometimes with tragic consequences.  In fact, the Emergency Care Research Institute (ECRI) considers alarm hazards a top health technology hazard.

By adding video to a multi-disciplinary approach towards combatting alarm fatigue, medical teams benefit from additional audio and visual indicators of a patient’s condition or underlying alarm cause. Does the patient show symptoms of respiratory distress? Is the IV dripping as it should? Has the patient truly “flat-lined” or has the cardiac sensor simply dislodged?

Central video monitoring provides additional situational awareness and enables fewer caregivers to better observe more critically ill patients. In addition, the multi-sensory audio/visual input can positively impact caregiver vigilance and attention.

A more robust nurse call solution

Traditional nurse call technology offers extremely little insight on patient needs – usually just a blinking lamp outside the patient room. And in shared patient rooms, caregivers might not even know which patient has requested assistance. While medical teams can often apply their knowledge about the patient’s condition to prioritize their responsiveness, it’s still possible that an extremely ill patient might just want a glass of water, or that a patient hospitalized for a minor procedure may suffer a sudden set-back.

Although originally designed as a video intercom for screening visitors, progressive hospitals have discovered that network door stations are extremely effective nurse call solutions. By activating the call button, the patient establishes a high-quality video and two-way audio connection with a caregiver. Not only does this allow the caregiver to quickly assess the patient need, it also reassures the patient their request for assistance has been noted.

Lowering the risk to staff

The use of one-to-one patient monitoring is still common practice in many healthcare facilities. Patient “sitters”, typically Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs), physically sit in patient rooms to keep watch over patients who are at high risk for falling, or have diminished cognitive function. For patients who are aggressive, under the influence of narcotics, or pose a danger to themselves or others, a patient “watch” officer – typically a member of the hospital security team – might be assigned this responsibility.

The practice of continuous physical monitoring is not only incredibly resource and cost intensive, it is extremely invasive for patients, and in some cases, may jeopardize the personal safety of hospital staff.

A more cost-effective and less resource intensive solution, virtual patient watch based on remote video monitoring may be a better solution.  Not only can fewer resources monitor more patients, some . More importantly, it keeps hospital staff out of harm’s way.

Better fall detection

It’s estimated that each year, between 700,000 and 1,000,000 people in the United States fall in the hospital. With the average hospital cost for a fall injury in excess of USD $30,000, this adds up to a staggering $20-30 billion dollars in direct annual medical costs.  And that doesn’t factor in personal pain and suffering, or the negative impact on life quality/expectancy. So, it’s no wonder that healthcare institutions invest significant resources in fall detection devices and fall prevention programs.

In a previous blog post, we examined how video surveillance can provide more reliable fall detection, specifically how thermal imaging can be used to detect high risk movement or confirm an alarm from another fall detection device – even in total darkness. By remotely confirming false alarms, hospitals can better prioritize resources and avoid unnecessarily disturbing resting patients. In addition, thermal imaging completely protects personal privacy and integrity.

Remote diagnosis and treatment during ambulance transport

For critically ill or injured patients, early diagnosis and treatment can mean the difference between life and death. And visual observations by a qualified physician are vital to ensuring a correct diagnosis.  Installing a high-resolution video camera that is specially designed for the rigors and conditions of mobile surveillance allows an ER/ED doctor to remotely assess a patient’s condition and prescribe a course of action before the patient even arrives at hospital.

If warranted, the doctor may choose to direct the emergency response crew to another hospital more suitable for treating specific patient conditions. And in response to the large number of unnecessary medical transports of non-emergent patients, remote diagnosis can support medical transport teams in the direct treatment and release of patients.

Independent living and reliable home health care

The world’s population is aging. In fact, it’s expected to be one of the most significant social transformations of this century, affecting nearly every country of the globe. The United Nations estimates that the number of people over 60 will double by 2050 and triple by 2100, which has enormous implications for a healthcare industry struggling to keep pace.

Remote video monitoring offers a means to maximize limited resources while creating a balance between independent living and reliable health care.  By using a combination of scheduled monitoring and event based alarms, caregivers can quickly respond to any real-time emergency, quickly dismiss false alarms, and provide peace of mind for seniors as well as their families.

Finding the right technology for patient monitoring

These are just a few of the ways that video can positively impact patient care while saving costs and making more efficient use of resources. But using video to monitor the most vulnerable requires careful consideration and stringent adherence to privacy and personal integrity.  That’s why it’s essential to invest in technology that is cyber-secure and strikes the right balance between clarity and privacy for specific monitoring needs.

Thermal technology for the best privacy protection in any lighting condition. Low light technology for a high level of detail and color fidelity in dimly lit patient rooms. Day/night technology for high contrast to visualize an IV drip. Two-way audio to capture valuable auditory clues and establish communication between patients and their caregivers. And intelligent video analytics to alert caregivers to a patient in distress. One thing is certain, smart healthcare institutions around the world are quickly realizing the benefits of video technology for patient care.

To learn more , please visit:

Axis Solutions for Patient Monitoring