One of the most important physiological tasks living organisms do is breathing. The inhalation and exhalation are known as the respiratory cycle. Respiration rate is an important indicator of a patient's health. Recent evidence suggests an average adult respiratory rate is 20 breaths per minute; however, this changes when a patient is sick or critically ill.
Manually recording an accurate respiratory rate is difficult and time-consuming. Medical professionals and healthcare workers are often time-poor with an increased workload, making it challenging to care for multiple patients whilst also improving outcomes effectively. To accurately record a respiration rate, healthcare professionals are required to stand with the patient with their hand on their chest, observing the chest wall rise and fall with each breath, whilst simultaneously timing themselves. The recommended time period is one minute and at the end of that time, they are required to record an accurate respiratory rate as one of that patient’s vital signs, which then may not be measured again for several hours.
Respiratory rate can be used to predict potentially serious clinical events such as sepsis or respiratory failure leading to admission to intensive care units. Using changes in respiratory rate measurements, patients could have been identified as high risk up to 12 hours before an event.
It is well established that prompt detection of worsening physiology is critical in reducing failure to rescue, with its associated increased length of stay and rising mortality, with a cost burden on the healthcare system; yet, on the general hospital wards where there are more patients per nurse and less monitoring, failure to rescue continues to be a major problem.