Smart Hospital Beds Have a Bright Future

Smart Hospital Beds Have a Bright Future

The full potential of smart beds will not only be achieved with isolated technological or morphological advances, but when they are seamlessly integrated into the healthcare system, enabling ease for caregivers, and more responsive environment for patients.

Recent scientific achievements and technological advances have brought forward a massive display of new or updated medical devices, enabled with highly developed embedded-control functions and interactivity. From the final decade of the twentieth century, medical beds have particularly been affected by this surge, taking on new forms and functions, while accommodating to established properties that have become well known for these devices. The past 15 years have also brought forward changes to conceptual frameworks, concerning the product design and manufacturing processes (standards), as well as the patient (perspectives on patient-care environments and accessibility).

In the past decades, the medical-bed market has further evolved, responding to also-changing structural, functional, and social-economic demands concerning the performance of medical beds. From the year 2000 to the present, these highly elaborate mechatronic devices have consolidated into what can be called the segment of smart mechatronic beds or smart beds, a term that describes a comprehensive synthesis between new materials, design, and higher functionality and autonomy for these systems, all under advanced user interfaces. Smart beds implement new technologies (graphical interfaces, novel environment-aware sensors, actuating solutions, etc.), to provide a higher level of service and function, like real-time monitoring, caregiver and patient assistance, automated functions and positions (chair, assisted bed exit), and data logging, as well as more advanced means of communication.

The current number of developers and manufacturers of medical beds, their associated products and accessories, as well as healthcare-management technologies, falls easily within the hundreds. Significant market players include Hill-Rom, Linet, ArjoHuntleigh, Stryker, Paramount Bed Co. Ltd., and Invacare.

The global market of electric and smart medical beds, both for healthcare facilities and residential use, reaches its highest degree of development in the United States and Europe, with the Asian market showing great potential for growth in the following years, and within this market, pressure-relief surfaces and beds are among the most prominent sub-groups.

Indian market dynamics

In 2017, the Indian hospital beds market is estimated at Rs 730 crore with sales at 112,000 units. The high-end motorized beds with a 38 percent share in value terms, have a 20 percent share by units. Midmark, ArjoHuntleigh, Stryker, Paramount, and Hill- Rom are the popular brands in this segment. The mid-end, semi-electric beds have a market share in the vicinity of 30 percent both in terms of value and volume. Popular brands include Midmark, ArjoHuntleigh, Paramount, and Godrej. Some other brands present are VISCO, Mediline, Meditek, Bharat Surgicals, and Geeta Surgicals. The competitively priced manual ones with their crank system for adjusting the height and posture have a 50 percent market share by volume, albeit in value terms have a 27 percent share. United Surgical, Medimec, Midmark, and many other regional and local brands cater to this segment.

There is tremendous gap between the availability of beds and required beds. With increasing urbanization and problems related to modern-day living in urban settings, currently, about 50 percent of spending on in-patient beds is for lifestyle diseases; this has increased the demand for specialized care. Lifestyle diseases seem to be replacing traditional health problems. Also, the population of people aged 65 years or above is growing at a high rate and they need medical attention.

With a current population of 1.6 million beds, in keeping with the new healthcare policy of two beds per 1000 people, at least 2.6 million beds will need to be provided over the next decade. The WHO standard is a minimum of 3 beds per 1000. Demand for new beds will be met by capital investments, changing status of non-functional beds to functional, public private collaboration, new business models, and focus on preventive healthcare. With a mere count of a total of 634,879 beds in the government hospitals in 2017, and advanced features such as being AC-powered, hydraulic adjustability, and powered patient rotation beds available in hospital beds, this segment is expected to grow over the next few years.

Way forward

Medical beds have changed, in the past decades, from technological, aesthetic, and functional perspectives. Smart medical beds are a comprehensive synthesis of these three: integrated solutions for patient care, assistance, and monitoring. Powered by a surge in user technological-awareness, the acceptance of new technologies into smart beds and accessories will likely continue to grow in developed regions, reaching more complex, upgraded, and even bold iterations in the near future.

The future of hospital beds will be shaped by the continued, conscious supplement of technologies into the healthcare environment. A prospective analysis on the evolution of healthcare systems will be necessary for the definition of proper strategies, in order to provide better, adapted services (expectations concerning number of beds and resources needed). As for patients and environments, research is heading in the way of providing even further functionality and integration with the medical bed. Embedded monitoring, autonomous responses, and accessibility-enabled systems can take full advantage of the potential of these devices, while also posing future challenges in the development of reliable solutions for the severely disabled.

Technologies implemented into medical smart beds may, at this point, result in derived, low-cost upgrades to other devices, like manually operated beds, which less-developed regions can benefit from.

While features like autonomy and embedded functionality may hint at an apparent detachment form the work of health specialists at this point in time, the need for multidisciplinary insight will, actually, become more urgent in the development of successful healthcare solutions. Research and study on healthcare-environment related solutions is of great need in a context of a globally aging population, where disability will have an even greater impact. Accessibility-enabled smart medical beds have the potential of becoming the center of new, comprehensive, and patient-conscious healthcare environments.

The global market of medical beds is currently broad, competitive, and still has potential to spread. Dedicated devices for different demographics are developed, and high-end functionality under customizable solutions are common features expected of these devices. Research is also continuously promoting novel or updated integrations of technology into this family of devices. It is expected that these changes will continue to spread into further automation and design adaptations, with the smart bed becoming the heart of the smart patient-care environment of the future. The full potential of smart beds will not only be achieved with isolated technological or morphological advances, but when they are seamlessly integrated into the healthcare system, enabling more efficient effort for caregivers, and a more responsive environment for patients.

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