Can AI Help Reduce the Risk of Bedsores?

Can AI Help Reduce the Risk of Bedsores?Bedsores are common in acute and long-term care facilities. As the name implies, bedsores are wounds that occur due to prolonged pressure on the skin in bedridden individuals who sit or lie in one position for extended periods.

Although most bedsore injuries sustained in hospital settings are preventable, approximately 2.5 million individuals in U.S. acute care facilities suffer from bedsores each year, and many are fatal. The total yearly cost to manage bedsores during hospitalization is over $26 billion, yet pressure injuries are not considered a public health crisis.

Preventing bedsores involves regular repositioning of patients who are bedridden or have limited mobility, using support surfaces such as specialized mattresses or cushions, keeping the skin clean and dry, maintaining adequate nutrition and hydration, and following appropriate wound care protocols. Early detection and prompt treatment of bedsores are essential to prevent complications, promote healing, and avoid further damage.

How can AI predict which patients are at risk for bedsores?

Artificial intelligence (AI) can be trained to carry out many tasks – carry on human-like conversations, predict an online shopper’s buying habits to inform future purchases, produce music in the style of professional musicians, and much more. Now these systems may have the potential to be used to predict the risk of bedsores in patients.

According to researchers from USC, Johns Hopkins University and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, the common practices and guidelines typically followed to prevent bedsores are time-consuming and labor-intensive for medical professionals. The industry-standard tool for predicting the risk of pressure injuries, the paper-based Braden Scale, has not changed since it originated in the 1980s and has a 54% accuracy rate.

However, according to a study published in BMJ Open, a new risk-assessment model that leverages artificial intelligence (AI) can increase the accuracy of bedsore prediction to over 74%, more than 20% more accurate than existing methods. According to the research, AI-powered predictive analytics can automate part of the risk assessment process. Rather than relying on acute care providers to perform skin checks for bedsores on patients every 12 to 24 hours, a predictive algorithm developed by researchers uses machine learning to perform risk assessments more efficiently, at substantial savings.

Machine learning algorithms can analyze various factors such as patient demographics, medical history, mobility status, nutritional status, skin condition, vital signs, and environmental factors to identify individuals at higher risk of developing bedsores. These predictive models can help healthcare providers implement preventive measures and interventions to reduce the incidence of pressure ulcers and improve patient outcomes.

While AI-powered predictive models can be valuable tools in identifying patients at risk of bedsores and implementing preventive measures, they should be used as support tools rather than replacing clinical judgment. Healthcare providers must consider multiple factors and individual patient circumstances when developing care plans and interventions to prevent pressure ulcers.

Why do patients get bedsores?

Bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers or pressure sores, develop when prolonged pressure or friction on the skin restricts blood flow to specific areas of the body. They commonly occur in individuals who are bedridden or have limited mobility, including patients in nursing homes, hospitals, or those confined to wheelchairs. Several factors contribute to the formation of bedsores:

  • Pressure: Prolonged pressure on specific areas of the body, such as the heels, hips, tailbone, elbows, or the back of the head, can lead to decreased blood flow to the skin and underlying tissues. This reduced blood flow denies the skin oxygen and nutrients, causing tissue damage and eventually leading to the formation of bedsores.
  • Friction: Friction and shear forces can exacerbate the development of bedsores, especially when the skin rubs against bedding, clothing, or medical devices. Friction can cause damage to the outer layer of the skin, making it more susceptible to breakdown under pressure.
  • Immobility: Patients who are not mobile or have limited mobility are at increased risk of developing bedsores because they are unable to change positions frequently or relieve pressure on vulnerable areas of the body. Prolonged immobility can lead to continual pressure on the skin and tissues, increasing the likelihood of bedsores.
  • Moisture: Excessive moisture from sweat, urine, or feces can soften the skin and make it more susceptible to bedsores, particularly in areas where skin folds or incontinence pads are in contact with the skin. Moisture can also increase the risk of infection, further complicating wound healing.
  • Poor nutrition and hydration: Malnutrition, dehydration, and insufficient intake of essential nutrients like protein, vitamins, and minerals can negatively impact the body’s ability to repair and maintain healthy skin. Poor nutrition weakens the skin’s integrity and impairs wound healing, making patients more susceptible to developing bedsores.
  • Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, vascular disease, spinal cord injury, or neurological disorders can impair blood circulation, sensation, or skin health, increasing the risk of bedsores. Patients with these conditions may be more prone to developing pressure ulcers, and their wounds might take longer to heal.

Bedsores are just one of the potential harms that the residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities face every day. However, severe bedsores, pressure sores, and decubitus ulcers can all be direct signs of nursing home abuse or neglect. They are not part of the natural aging process.

At Garcia & Artigliere, we have more than 100 years of experience advocating for victims of elder abuse and their families. If you suspect your loved one may have suffered any type of injury or harm as a result of substandard care or abuse at a nursing home, assisted living facility, or elder care center, seek legal advice immediately. Our experienced elder abuse attorneys will establish whether you can be compensated for any emotional or physical suffering that may result from nursing home negligence or elder abuse.

Garcia & Artigliere is a national law firm with offices in PhoenixLong BeachLos AngelesLouisville, and New Orleans. Call our offices or fill out our contact form to schedule your free case review today.