Photocredit: Kasper Hellesøe

A Patch and an App Are Getting Patients out of Bed

Many patients become weaker while ­attempting to recover in a hospital bed, impacting their quality of life beyond the hospital’s walls. Knowing this, ­researchers and physios at Bispebjerg Hospital are testing a simple solution that promises to make a significant impact on patient outcomes.

Each day, many elderly patients living with ­heart and lung disease are admitted to hospitals ­throughout Denmark. They spend most of the day inactive in a hospital bed. This marks the beginning of a vicious cycle that often continues when they leave hospital increasing their risk of re-hospitalisation.

According to Christian Have Dall, a senior researcher at Bispebjerg Hospital:

Photocredit: Kasper Hellesøe

“Many patients are inactive 18-20 hours a day in the hospital bed, and body functions decline rapidly during ­hospitalisation. Therefore, rehabilitation while hospitalised is crucial to avoid los of independency, decline of quality of life and re-hospitalisation.”

To change this harmful pattern, Bispebjerg Hospital is testing an intelligent patch to get patients moving that was developed by the Danish start-up SENS Innovation.

Virtual walk

A new sensor technology – combined with some advanced machine learning – will encourage elderly patients to be more active during their hospital stay. Though it sounds complicated, it isn’t.

When staff ­members automatically ­receive patient data, they can more easily ­monitor their course of treatment
Christian Have Dahl, senior researcher at Bispebjerg Hospital

Essentially, patients are provided with a patch that has a built-in motion sensor and an accompanying tablet that can be placed on their bedside table. In this way, the patient and healthcare professional can each follow the patient’s level of activity in detail.

As Dall points out:

Photocredit: Kasper Hellesøe

“The information from the tablet will use nudging to change patient’s behaviour in a more active lifestyle. The tablet will give feedback with small simple task, followed by a new task with some more challenge. We have already tested the device in a small clinical study where we could see that especially patients with a good degree of independency did spend more than 50 minutes per day out of bed compared to patients not using the intelligent patch.

Patients with a low degree of independency did not benefit from the intelligent patch, these patients need more care from health staff. Using the system can essentially canalise health staff to the patients in most need.

Since many of the patients come from the capital region, their steps and activities are converted into distance and the steps between well-known Copenhagen sights. The first task starts at the Central Station, followed by more and more demanding task, walking to Runde Tårn, to Amalienborg, to the little mermaid among others.

In Dall’s words: “Since the solution is based on gamification, it becomes a goal and prompt for patients who want to move more each day to prove to themselves that they can and to see that they are physically recovering. In tandem, relatives are also really good at helping and motivate patients to get out of bed.”

Phase two is now underway at Bispebjerg Hospital, ­seeing 320 patients tracking their activity during their ­hospitalisation.

Technology is part of the healthcare system of the future

On average, the patients who can get out of bed and who use the patch move 50 minutes more each day than other patients who do not use the patch. Though Dall is hesitant to remark on the initiative’s success, he is encouraged by the prospect of using other technological solutions after seeing the benefits of the new sensor technology:

“The study we use now focuses only on the technology itself. If the results are backing up the first small study the third phase will investigate the sensor technology interacting with health care professionals. Therefore, it is too early to say whether it is a success or not, but the sensor technology has some very interesting options.

Photocredit: Kasper Hellesøe

New technology has exploded over the past ten years and the Danish health sector will face a dramatic transformation in the coming years – particularly where funding and resources are scarce.

Thanks to this sensor technology – that not only measures general activity but also records whether the patient is lying, sitting, standing, or walking – health professionals have valuable data to work with. What’s more, this can be used as a conversation starter with patients about movement and activity, and staff can avoid spending their valuable time mapping how much each patient has moved over the past week.

Dall concludes:

“When staff members automatically receive patient data, they can more easily monitor their course of treatment. Some patients will benefit from the technology and the health care professionals can spend more valuable time on the patients in most need.”