Considering Continuous Vital Signs Monitoring? Ask Yourself These 4 Questions

September 21, 2016 | Evaluations & Guidance


In recent years, ECRI Institute has seen growing interest among our members in continuous vital signs monitoring systems. These systems are typically used in lower-acuity care floors like general care or medical-surgical care areas, serving as an alternative to the traditional monitoring practice in these locations—that is, intermittently spot-checking vital signs at hospital-defined intervals (e.g., every four to eight hours).

One goal of continuously monitoring vital signs in low-acuity areas is to enhance patient safety by alerting caregivers to emerging problems, or the potential for problems, that can lead to patient deterioration. Another aim is to address limitations of spot-check monitoring, which include:

  1. Trending information may be missed during the gap between patient spot checks.

  2. Measurement methods can be imprecise (e.g., nurses usually measure respiratory rate for 15 seconds and then multiply by four).

In addition, continuous vital signs monitoring may be used in an attempt to mitigate hospitals' increasing concerns related to monitoring patients on opioids and reducing failure-to-rescue events on the medical-surgical floor. Because of these factors, ECRI Institute has recently seen a rise in requests for information on devices that offer continuous monitoring of vital signs. But is there sufficient evidence to justify the...

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