A major northeast Ohio hospital system is the first in the state to address a deadly risk that can lead to patients being found 'dead in bed'.
An exclusive News 5 investigation last month found that in hospital across the country, healthy patients who have undergone successful surgeries, die suddenly and unexpectedly while recovering on general floors that are judged to have the absolute lowest risk.
The University Hospitals System is the first in Ohio to address those risks by utilizing continuous electronic monitoring of all surgical patients throughout their entire hospital stay -- even when they're on a general floor.
UH-Geneva Medical Center has installed an electronic monitoring system that alerts nurses and hospital staff when oxygen and respiration reach critical levels.
"We'll do everything we can to protect our patients," said UH-Geneva Chief Operating Officer Jason Glowczewski.
"One life saved--it matters," said Glowczewski.
The exclusive News 5 investigation found as many as 50,000 patients have been impacted by the deadly practice over the last ten years, the worst cases include severe brain injury and death.
An increased use of opioid pain medication following surgery is suspected as a major contributor to slowing breathing and respiration, ultimately depriving the brain of oxygen.
In addition, we found risk factors include:
- Undiagnosed sleep apnea
- Patients suffering from multiple health issues
- Combinations of pain medication and sleeping aids
All of these factors are contributing to an increase in patients found dead in bed.
At UH-Geneva Medical Center, all surgical patients are being monitored from their bedsides and with tetherless wearable monitors generally placed on patient's arms.
"You have no choice," Chief Medical Officer Dr. Amitabh Goel said. "You have to do this because you can't predict who is going to have an adverse event or who's not going to do well without being monitored."
It is the type of continuous electronic monitoring currently being used at Dartmouth-Hitchock Medical Center in New Hampshire, where researchers have found it has saved millions by preventing patients from serious complications that require intensive care units and extended hospital stays.
Joseph Kiani founded Masimo Corporation, a leading healthcare technology company that developed the system being used by University Hospitals.
"They not only saved a million and a half dollars a year but they haven't had a 'dead in bed' since 2007," Kiani said, referring to the Dartmouth-Hitchock facility.
University Hospitals says it also plans to add continuous monitoring to it's UH-Conneaut Medical Center in January and is reviewing plans to expand it throughout the entire system.
So far, University Hospitals is the only hospital system among 149 across the state to employ continuous monitoring for all surgical patients without exception.