It used to be that only the most fragile patients were wired to a cardiac monitor. Now, some hospitals are building “war rooms’’ with row upon row of screens to track patients’ heart rate and rhythm. Others, such as Tufts Medical Center in Boston, have installed monitors at every bedside.
The burgeoning use of heart monitors allows hospitals to care for sicker patients on regular floors - typically without hiring as many nurses as they do in intensive care units - and to admit patients faster, easing emergency room congestion. Many physicians routinely put patients on the monitors, knowing they can save lives by catching life-threatening abnormalities. And since monitoring is noninvasive, it seems harmless.