Researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center have tested the PUP (Patient is Up) Smart Socks, developed by a medtech company called Palarum, in their ability to reduce falls among at-risk patients.
The socks contain pressure sensors that alert caregivers when a patient is attempting to stand up. This can include situations such as a patient getting out of bed to go to the toilet. The socks can wirelessly communicate with the system, which then alerts the caregivers that are closest to the patient, so that they can arrive and provide assistance as soon as possible. The recent study showed that the system significantly reduced fall rates in patients at high risk of such incidents.
A fall can spell serious consequences for frail and vulnerable patients, and can often be the start of a downward health spiral. It is not typically possible to monitor high-risk patients every minute of the day, but wireless technologies are well-suited to fulfill an assistive role in this context.
“Due to the rapidly aging population, the number of patients at higher risk of falling in hospitals is expected to increase substantially,” said Tina Bodine, a researcher involved in the study. “About 30% of in-hospital falls are thought to be preventable, so it’s imperative to determine better ways to keep our patients safe from falling while hospitalized.”
Falls often happen when a high-risk patient attempts to get out of bed to use the restroom, and this is the time that having a caregiver present to assist can dramatically reduce the risk of such incidents. Current approaches sometimes involve pressure sensors in beds or seating, but these frequently give false alarms, leading to alarm fatigue and reduced effectiveness of such systems.
This new system is present on the patients and staff themselves, in the form of wireless smart socks containing pressure sensors and alert badges that staff wear. The socks alert the three nearest caregivers when a patient attempts to get out of bed, and then the next nearest three if one the first three is not present in the room within the first 60 seconds, and the system progresses to an all-staff call within 90 seconds.
“Patients can fall while they are hospitalized, and this can sometimes lead to injury or death. We know that existing fall prevention measures do not work consistently,” said Tammy Moore, another researcher involved in the study. “During our study, we observed zero falls, which was a lower fall rate among the patients wearing these socks than the historical fall rate of 4 falls per 1,000 patient-days.”
“A major problem with bed and chair pressure sensors is that the high numbers of false alarms may cause ‘alarm fatigue’ that can contribute to delayed response,” said Bodine. “With this system, no falls were detected, and only 0.2% of the alarms were false alarms. We also analyzed nurse response times that ranged from 1 second to nearly 10 minutes and found that the median nurse response time was 24 seconds.”