Researchers Develop Anti-Bedsore Mattress

 In Medical Malpractice

Following a Scottish initiative to reduce the number of injuries and deaths caused by pressure ulcers, a bio-engineering firm is working to use sensor technology to combat the problem by creating smart mattresses and wheelchair cushions.  Electronic sensors in the mattresses will prompt the mattress or cushion to automatically adjust when it senses potentially harmful pressure, thereby moving the patient and preventing the formation of pressure ulcers.

Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that similar technology is already being implemented in hospitals around the United States.  The article reported that wireless monitors slipped under the mattresses at Dignity Health’s California Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles are used to send alerts to nurses when it is time to turn patients to avoid skin breakdown. A manager at the hospital said that the technology has helped to prevent pressure ulcers.

Although the sensor technology currently used in the U.S. may notify nurses and other healthcare providers to turn a patient in order to prevent pressure ulcers from developing, understaffing may still present problems to ensuring that patients receive necessary care.  The smart mattresses and wheelchair cushions could help to combat this problem by automatically adjusting patients when it senses harmful pressure.

Given the increasing use of sensor technology in hospitals and nursing homes, attorneys who represent clients who suffered from a preventable pressure ulcer should consider including discovery requests that ask for the data and reports generated by these sensors.  Where a health care provider failed to provide adequate care to a patient (i.e. failed to timely turn or reposition a patient), such information will be particularly useful in evidencing these failures.

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