For patients in pain, opioids can be essential to their healing and overall well-being. However, opioid use presents serious risks. Hospitalized patients receiving opioids for pain control can suffer respiratory depression that leads to brain injury or death. Lying in bed behind closed doors or at the end of a long hallway, these patients can stop breathing without anyone noticing. Two-thirds of these patients cannot be resuscitated.

Although risk assessment models exist, they may not accurately predict which patients will have adverse reactions to opioids. Periodic monitoring, or “spot checks” of these patients on general care floors, performed as infrequently as every 2 to 4 hours, will not detect the early onset of problems.

The AAMI Foundation, with the support of key industry partners and other patient safety organizations, launched a multiyear initiative to highlight this potentially catastrophic patient safety problem and to make the case for a solution that can save lives: continuous electronic monitoring (CEM). CEM isn’t the only answer, but it’s a fundamental part of any meaningful solution.

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