The impact of continuous versus intermittent vital signs monitoring in hospitals: A systematic review and narrative synthesis

Int J Nurs Stud. 2018 Aug;84:19-27. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2018.04.013. Epub 2018 Apr 21.


Background: Continuous vital signs monitoring on general hospital wards may allow earlier detection of patient deterioration and improve patient outcomes. This systematic review will assess if continuous monitoring is practical outside of the critical care setting, and whether it confers any clinical benefit to patients.

Methods: MEDLINE®, MEDLINE® In-Process, EMBASE, CINAHL and The Cochrane Library were searched for articles that evaluated the clinical or non-clinical outcomes of continuous vital signs monitoring in adults outside of the critical care setting. The protocol was registered with PROSPERO (CRD42017058098).

Findings: Twenty-four studies met the inclusion criteria and reported outcomes on a total of 40,274 patients and 59 ward staff in nine countries. The majority of studies showed benefits in terms of critical care use and length of hospital stay. Larger studies were more likely to demonstrate clinical benefit, particularly critical care use and length of hospital stay. Three studies showed cost-effectiveness. Barriers to implementation included nursing and patient satisfaction and the burden of false alerts.

Conclusions: Continuous vital signs monitoring outside the critical care setting is feasible and may provide a benefit in terms of improved patient outcomes and cost efficiency. Large, well-controlled studies in high-risk populations are required to evaluate the clinical benefit of continuous monitoring systems.

Keywords: Continuous; Monitoring; Patient safety; Physiologic; Vital signs.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Critical Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospitals*
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Length of Stay
  • Monitoring, Physiologic / methods*
  • Narration
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / psychology
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Vital Signs*