Get our newsletters

St. Luke’s pioneers continuous vital signs monitoring


St. Luke’s University Health Network based in Bethlehem has deployed a groundbreaking patient safety program that harnesses the latest in health care technology, revolutionizing the surveillance of hospital patients’ vital signs.

The program’s 24/7 monitoring alerts clinicians to patient deterioration, resulting in decreased morbidity and mortality. It has already proven successful, saving lives when piloted at St. Luke’s Bethlehem Campus, and now it is being extended to St. Luke’s Monroe and Warren, N.J., campuses.

The technology continuously measures a patient’s pulse rate and the amount of oxygen in the blood, in contrast to the traditional practice of monitoring vital signs only periodically. It also is capable of more frequent, automated blood pressure measurement.

St. Luke’s is pioneering this approach nationally. No other hospital in the region and only a handful across the county has such monitoring on their medical surgical units.

“Checking vital signs every four or eight hours, which is the current standard of care, is inadequate for some patients, whose deteriorating health may go unnoticed during these intervals,” explained Dr. Aldo Carmona, chairman of the department of anesthesia and critical care, and senior vice president of clinical integration, who is leading the initiative.

But now, through continuous monitoring, doctors and nurses are immediately alerted as soon as subtle signs of failing health are sensed, enabling a quicker therapeutic response to emergent situations.

The technology, developed by Masimo Corp., has been shown through clinical trial to decrease mortality, intensive care unit readmission and rapid response calls. At St. Luke’s, surveillance data will be automatically and continuously entered into the patient’s electronic health record – an industry-first innovation that will provide clinicians with a fuller, more detailed picture of patients’ condition.

The monitoring system consists of a wireless armband and pulse oxygen sensor that continuously transmit vital scores to caregivers when signs of trouble arise. Eventually, the system will also include an acoustic respirator monitor that sends breathing measures second-by-second, increasing the accuracy of surveillance in patients with pneumonia, sepsis and other illnesses for which respiratory rates changes are critical symptoms .

Continuous monitoring will be deployed at other St. Luke’s campuses over the next two years, Carmona said.