People have been monitoring the vital signs of others since the dawn of mankind, using various methods to track heart rate, body temperature, respiratory rate, and arterial blood pressures. Glenmed takes a look at how patient monitoring began, how it has evolved over the centuries, and what the patient monitoring systems of today are capable of!

Monitoring the Four Vital Signs

It was back in 1625 when Santorio of Venice, with help from his good friend Galileo, published methods for measuring body temperature with a spirit thermometer, and timing the pulse rate with a pendulum. However, their findings were largely ignored. It was only with the publication of “Pulse-Watch” by Sir John Floyer in 1707 that the first scientific report pertaining to the pulse rate came to light.

Ludwig Taube published the first-ever plotted course of fever in a patient circa 1852, adding respiratory rate to the list of human vital signs trackable at the time. Subsequent improvements in the thermometer and clock solidified the heart rate, respiratory rate and body temperature as the standard vital signs monitored by medical professionals of the time.

In 1896 the first ever ‘sphygmomanometer’ (blood-pressure cuff) was introduced to the medical world, which added a fourth vital sign, arterial blood pressures, to patient monitoring procedures. Seven years later, in 1903, Willem Einthoven invented the string galvanometer for measuring the ECG – and invention that won him the 1924 Nobel Peace Prize in physiology.

Impact of Digital Electronic Technology

The next logical step in patient monitoring was to devise a system that allowed medical professionals to monitor all four vital signs (heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, and blood pressure) at once, and over an indefinite period of time. With Himmelstein and Scheiner’s invention of the ‘cardiotachoscope’ in 1952, and advances in physiological monitoring system technologies by electronics companies in the 1960s, meant that patient monitoring systems were improving almost year on year.

While the monitoring and logging of patient vital signs during medical care has long been performed, it was only with advances in digital electronic technology that medical professionals were able to see vital sign representations on the screens of early patient monitors. One of these was the CS-625 Memory Monitor by Burdick. It featured a small black screen with a single waveform, and red numerals displaying heart beats per minute.

During the 1980s, patient monitoring systems evolved to include bedside arrhythmia analysis and larger, colour screens that allowed for more waveforms to be displayed at once.

Modern Patient Monitor Portability

With advances in display technologies through the 1990s and early 2000s, and the advent of the touch screen, patient monitor systems have become both easier to use and to transport! This article on the Philips IntelliVue family of patient monitoring systems reveals just how technology has improved the efficiency of medical professionals across the globe.

Doctors and nurses alike are now able to monitor and report on patient vitals effortlessly, and with portable patient monitoring systems like the Philips IntelliVue X3 – moving patients from one part of the facility to another has become much less of a hassle.

One can only imagine where patient monitoring systems are destined to venture next – what with the great advances in holographic technology and microchip capabilities of recent years.

Patient Monitoring Systems in South Africa

Glenmed is an authorised distributor of Philips patient monitoring systems in KwaZulu-Natal, dedicated to the improvement of healthcare practises in the province. Our patient monitoring solutions are extensively used in medical contexts throughout the world. Contact Glenmed here for more information on our available patient monitoring systems.

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