Patient Vital Sign Monitors

Nurses traditionally rely on five vital signs to assess their patients: temperature, pulse, blood pressure, respiratory rate and oxygen saturation.

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.

Vital Sign Monitor Features

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:

  1. Does the monitor offer multiple Patient Modes—e.g., adult, pediatric and neonatal?
  2. Does it allow you to automatically capture a complete set of vital signs in a short time frame?
  3. Does it provide spot monitoring?
  4. Can monitor data be sent directly to other medical professionals?
  5. Does it offer wireless transfer of vital signs from the point of care directly into your EMR?
  6. 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.
  7. 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.)
  8. Does it offer automated blood-pressure averaging so you can be more accurate in hypertension diagnosis without stalling your workflow?
  9. Does it feature different blood pressure modes (i.e., auto, manual, continuous, average)?
  10. What type of thermometry does the monitor use? Can it obtain oral, rectal and axillary temperatures with the speed and accuracy you need?
  11. 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?
  12. Does it allow easy one-touch access to frequently used functions and features?
  13. Is navigation simple and intuitive?
  14. Does it permit different configurations to accommodate different clinical needs?
  15. What are its trend reporting and display capabilities?
  16. Does it have timed intervals and alarm capabilities? Are they programmable?
  17. 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 consumption?
  18. Is the monitor upgradeable?
  19. Does it have a bar code scanner?
  20. 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.
  21. Does it have an optional integrated thermal printer for trend analysis or record keeping that prints instantly when you touch the button?
  22. What are the monitor’s mounting and mobility options? Is it portable and lightweight, enabling you to take it wherever you need it?
  23. 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) (CO2)
  • 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.

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