Navigating the waters of having a safe blood pressure cuff is problematic for most medical practioners. The problems stem from the same cuff being used on multiple patients, which leads to the spread of disease; different connection points for blood pressure cuffs; and multiple cuffs being used in each department, which have a hand in jacking up supply costs.

Studies show that more than 99,000 deaths occur each year in the U.S. that are a result from infections garnered from the hospital.

The major way to eliminate this problem: create a cuff that would stay with the patient from admission to omission, thus eliminating the spread of harmful bacteria or general confusion clinicians might have over which cuff to use, according to Lisa Riggs, a clinical nurse specialist at St. Luke's Hospital (Chesterfield, Missouri).

On Tuesday, Welch Allyn (Skaneateles Falls, New York) introduced such a solution through its FlexiPort blood pressure cuffs to its U.S. market what it calls the first cuffs designed to work with devices in any patient care area. The nearly century-old-company held a press conference to discuss the device and how it could revolutionize the way hospitals use blood pressure cuffs in the future.

"The real problem is that there are compatibility issues and practioners are forced to make it work," said Sean Karla, global category manager of Welch Allen, during a press conference touting the devices. What we've developed is a unique fitting that will go under the device tube ... so that the cuff can stay with the patient throughout their [stay in the hospital]."

FlexiPort cuffs connect to virtually any manual or electronic blood pressure device, so patients can be freely moved from room to room, floor to floor and department to department without forcing clinicians to find new cuffs for each different device.

"FlexiPort cuffs make finding, ordering and using cuffs as simple as it should be," Karla said. "There is currently incredible variability with all the different tube, connector, and cuff styles out there, which causes a tremendous amount of caregiver confusion and leads to excess inventory. By providing a single common connection point between the device and cuff, FlexiPort cuffs can eliminate much of that variability."

Facility standardization with FlexiPort blood pressure cuffs can reduce the typical hospital's cuff part numbers by up to 60%. The reduced part numbers mean a reduction in inventory levels so blood pressure cuffs are easier to find for clinicians and easier to order for purchasing managers.

"If hospitals were to simply open new cuffs every time they used one on a parient, then they would significantly run up costs," Karla said during the conference.

The FlexiPort connection is built into every new FlexiPort cuff. When a facility standardizes with FlexiPort cuffs, it attaches FlexiPort fittings to every device tube it has in-house. The fittings, which vaguely resemble extenstion cord endings, can then snap directly into the FlexiPort connection to eliminate traditional tubes and connectors from their cuffs, while making every cuff work like a one- or a two-tube cuff.

"Clinicians face enough challenges when they're at work, so we designed a cuff option that actually makes caregivers' lives easier," Karla said. "FlexiPort removes one of the many problems caregivers face on a daily basis so they can focus on what matters most their patients."

FlexiPort also helps cut down the risk of spreading infectious diseases through cuffs by enabling a single cuff to be used on multiple devices. Assigning a FlexiPort cuff to a patient when he or she is admitted to the hospital allows the patient to move freely throughout the facility without having the cuff changed every time the patient is hooked up to a new device, which reduces waste as well as exposure to other hospital-borne illness, the company said.

The FlexiPort feature was available for both reusable and disposable cuffs and approved for sale throughout Europe and the Middle East in November 2007. The feature is now approved for sale and available in the U.S.

Welch Allen was founded in 1915 when Dr. Francis Welch and William Noah Allyn built the world's first hand-held, direct-illuminating ophthalmoscope. It has since expanded its operations to include therapeutic devices, cardiac defibrillators, patient monitoring systems and miniature precision lamps.

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