Innovation in hospital bed technology

Focus on the design of modern hospital beds, including bariatric beds, birthing couches and mattresses

Hospital beds are undergoing a transformation, driven by factors such as an ageing population, the need to reduce pressure sores, and an increase in obese patients. Here, we look at some of the latest designs and how they are helping to improve care

A good bed, according to Medstrom, is one that ‘provides a safe environment for the patient, is easy and intuitive to use, contributes towards improved efficiency, and helps to reduce the risk of injuries to staff

Hospital beds may seem far removed from the coalface of patient care; but the role innovative bed technology is playing, and has the potential to play, in eradicating preventable harm and promoting patient safety and experience, while reducing cost, is not to be underestimated.

Do no harm

A consideration in our design is the incorporation of features that help to increase nursing efficiency while also improving patient outcomes

It is reported that the direct cost of falls in NHS hospitals is around £15m a year.

And, with 22% of patients who fall in hospital falling from their beds, there is a clear need to effectively tackle the root cause of preventable patient harm in order to deliver safer patient care and an enhanced experience.

A good bed, according to manufacturer, Medstrom, is one that ‘provides a safe environment for the patient, is easy and intuitive for patients and caregivers to use, contributes towards improved efficiency, and helps to reduce the risk of injuries to staff’.

In addition, bed functionality, particularly postural support, is associated with direct increased clinical benefit.

For example, four-section profiling beds with knee raise provide a better supported sitting position with less abdominal compression than beds with a flat base or two to three sections.

There are also a number of physiological and psychological benefits to sitting in a semi-recumbent position.

The very-latest hospital bed designs can offer greater mobility, shorter and more-positive recoveries, and protection from falls and injuries.

Ultra-low beds, for example, can help to prevent injury should a patient fall, and the ability to set a custom height entry/exit position makes entering and exiting the bed safer for those patients who are able to be mobilised.

But the population is not just ageing. Obesity is now recognised as a global epidemic and around 25% of the UK population is classed as obese, rates that are among the highest in Europe.

Overweight, or bariatric, patients are at higher risk of falls and innovative bed technology and effective bed management can make a world of difference to both clinical staff and patients themselves.

Arjo Huntleigh's BariAir system is one of a new generation of hospital beds designed for overweight and obese patients

Weighing up the options

The wider bed width of dedicated bariatric bed ranges offers more space for turning and can reduce the likelihood of bed rails causing skin damage due to contact pressure.

Bed widths are also expanding in line with the latest medical technology, for example the increased use of pressure redistributing pumps, which are typically fitted to the footboard of beds, so require more room.

An example of the latest innovative technology is Medstrom Healthcare’s MMO range, which is available in three types, all helping to reduce injury and enhance recovery.

Arjo Huntleigh is tackling the issue with its BariAir system for immobile, critically-ill bariatric patients.

It has been designed to help maintain skin integrity, prevent respiratory complications, and reduce patient transfers and is suitable for patients weighing up to 60 stone.

And Benmor Medical was responsible for one of the first bariatric ranges, offering a rental system so that hospitals can order in larger beds when needed to reduce the need for storage and to lower the overall cost.

Other bed designs target specific patient groups, for example Tough Furniture’s Mid Sleeper, which offers a secure sleeping option with integral ‘den’ for people on the autistic spectrum; and Pineapple Contracts’ Sovie bed for the mental health market.

Tough Furniture’s Mid Sleeper is one of a new generation of patient-specific bed designs and is aimed at people on the autistic spectrum

Taking the pressure off

Just as important as the design of the beds themselves are the mattresses used.

Modern designs put an emphasis on patient comfort and the reduction of pressure ulcers.

Rober has recently released a pioneering new solution - The NoDec AIRSTREAM Total Heel Protection - designed specifically to relieve pressure on the heel and lower limbs, two common areas for troublesome pressure ulcers; while Medstrom’s AeroSpacer range utilises 3D spacer textiles which reduce temperature, moisture and humidity, shear strain, and provide effective pressure distribution.

And Hill-Rom has a range of solutions, including the Envision E700, P500 Therapy Surface, and the ACcuMax Quantum VPC Surface.

Its Clinitron Rite Hite Air Fluidized Therapy Bed is designed for patients with existing sores, providing a healing environment for compromised skin by minimising the forces that cause tissue breakdown: pressure, shear, friction, heat and moisture.

The NoDec AIRSTREAM Total Heel Protection mattress helps to reduce pressure sores

Design matters

Jane McLaughlin of Medstrom said: “As a supplier, we are inevitably steered by issues like the need to reduce falls or pressure ulcers when innovating and developing new product ranges.

“A consideration in our design is the incorporation of features that help to increase nursing efficiency while also improving patient outcomes.

“Bed handling has also been improved, with new features introduced to reduce manual handling injury among caregivers and hospital porters by making the bed very easy to manoeuvre, thanks to our unique castor, brake and steer design.

“And cost continues to be a key factor.

“Health budgets are reviewed regularly and are often being cut.

“With this in mind, we build very-robust beds with ten-year bed frame warranties, which helps the hospitals we supply to minimise lifetime costs.”

The latest addition to the Sidhil range by Drive DeVilbiss is the Chrysalis birthing bed. which has been designed to support women throughout labour

Giving birth to the latest technology

Mums-to-be are also at the centre of the very latest in hospital bed design.

The Sidhil range by Drive DeVilbiss recently expanded with the introduction of Chrysalis birthing beds which are equipped to manage all stages of childbirth and configured to help women maintain more-natural positions during labour and birth.

They also transform easily into delivery chairs, with the foot section sliding away beneath the seat, and have height, back and seat section adjustments achieved via electric actuators controlled either from a central panel or a hands-free foot pedal.

And integral side rails provide added safety and feature special dual-sided control panels for easy adjustment.

In addition they have been designed to optimise infection control, with frames manufactured from epoxy powder-coated steel, which is resistant to UV, mechanical damage and cleaning fluids, and have seats covered with removable ABS plastic moulds which provide a smooth, impervious, easy-clean surface.

Another solution is the LD304 Birthing Bed from Stryker.

Described as ‘not just a maternity bed, but a delivery partner’, it has an ergonomic design to help prevent back strain and injury among healthcare staff, a patented Skoocher feature to move the mother-to-be closer to the perineal edge of the bed, and convenient controls to allow customisation.

And Arjo Huntleigh offers a single solution for labour, delivery and recovery.

The Birthright bed has electric height and backrest adjustment and converts quickly from a standard bed to a versatile delivery platform.

Arjo Huntleigh's Birthright bed provides a single solution for labour, delivery and recovery