Patient Vital Sign Monitors
Nurses traditionally rely on five vital signs to assess
their patients: temperature, pulse, blood pressure, respiratory rate and oxygen
High quality vital sign monitors are made by many companies.
They monitor and measure basic medical indicators of health (variety of essential
bodily functions and metrics), and are offered with varied features and options
in many shapes and sizes. Knowing which monitor is right for your needs can be
confusing. Making the right choice is important and involves understanding and
comparing options, features, and pricing–and understanding your needs. It’s
helpful to secure advice from medical-equipment dealers with a real
understanding of how VS monitors compare from one maker, purpose and user
situation to another.
Understand your needs. The features and functions of your
vital sign monitors depend on your medical practice needs. Select a monitor that gives you the functions you
need, not those that you won’t use. You don’t want to pay for monitor functions
you won’t use.
Questions you should ask when evaluating your needs and
vital sign monitors include:
- Does the monitor offer multiple
Patient Modes–e.g., adult, pediatric and neonatal?
- Does it allow you to automatically capture a complete set of
vital signs in a short time frame?
- Does it provide spot monitoring?
- Can monitor data be sent directly to other medical
- Does it offer wireless transfer of vital signs from the point of
care directly into your EMR?
- Does it offer caregiver authentication and patient record
validation at the bedside, and patient record review before export to EMR? These
features help eliminate data-entry errors and improve efficiency.
- What are its communication capabilities? Can the unit easily
communicate and co-work with hospital information systems and other hospital
facilities? (E.g., nurse call, Wi-Fi, LAN, HL7.)
- Does it offer automated blood-pressure averaging so you can be more
accurate in hypertension diagnosis without stalling your workflow?
- Does it feature different blood pressure modes (i.e., auto,
manual, continuous, average)?
- What type of thermometry does the monitor use? Can it obtain
oral, rectal and axillary temperatures with the speed and accuracy you need?
- Is the user interface high-resolution, does it have a large
digital display that’s easy to see in dark or lighted environments, is it customizable
and easy to use, is it simple to learn and program?
- Does it allow easy one-touch access to frequently used functions
- Is navigation simple and intuitive?
- Does it permit different configurations to accommodate different
- What are its trend reporting and display capabilities?
- Does it have timed intervals and alarm capabilities? Are they
- What type of battery does the monitor use and how long does it
last? How often does the monitor need to be charged? How is the unit on power
- Is the monitor upgradeable?
- Does it have a bar code scanner?
- Does the monitor have built-in memory capable of saving and
easily scrolling to many sets of patient measurement data? Carefully consider
how much patient information you’ll need the monitor to store and record.
- Does it have an optional integrated thermal printer for trend
analysis or record keeping that prints instantly when you touch the button?
- What are the monitor’s mounting and mobility options? Is it
portable and lightweight, enabling you to take it wherever you need it?
- Does it make a lot of noise? Or is it whisper quiet?
What does the monitor measure? Not all monitors measure the
same vital signs. Does it measure/monitor:
- Blood pressure
- Total hemoglobin (blood
oxygen levels–SpO2–an estimate of arterial oxygen saturation)
- Concentration or partial
pressure of carbon dioxide (CO2) in respiratory gases (Capnography)
- Temperature (Thermometry)
- Pulse oximetry
- Respiratory activity
- Motion sensing
When considering vital signs monitor features, look for
those that help reduce errors and unit operation time, make operation easy and
reliable, improve the efficiency of your staff, and leave your team better able
to focus on and spend time with patients.