The 5 Most Important Patient Vital Signs

calendar icon Posted on April 5, 2018

vital signWalking through the halls of a medical facility, it’s standard to find nurses and doctors making rounds, regularly checking in on their patients. Monitoring patient vital signs is common practice amongst medical professionals, and plays a key role in patient health and clinical outcomes. Regular surveillance allows healthcare professionals to track changes in patient conditions, recognize early patient deterioration and prevent harm or errors that may occur. Quick detection of subtle changes in vital signs is crucial, as delays in initiating appropriate treatment can adversely affect the patient’s outcome and patient safety.

When routinely monitoring patients on general care floors, there are 5 primary vital signs that medical professionals check:

  • Temperature: Normal body temperature can range from 97.8 degrees Fahrenheit (36.5 degrees Celsius) to 99 degrees F (37.2 degrees C) for a healthy adult.
  • Heart Rate: A normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats a minute. Generally, a lower resting heart rate implies more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness. Although there’s a wide range of normal, an unusually high or low heart rate may indicate an underlying problem.
  • Blood pressure: Measured with a blood pressure cuff and stethoscope by a nurse or other health care provider, blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the artery walls. High blood pressure directly increases the risk of coronary heart disease (heart attack) and stroke (brain attack). With high blood pressure, the arteries may have an increased resistance against the flow of blood, causing the heart to pump harder to circulate the blood.
  • Respiratory rate: The respiration rate (breathing rate) is the number of breaths a person takes per minute. Normal respiration rates for a resting adult range from 12 to 16 breaths per minute. Respiration rates may increase with fever, illness, and with other medical conditions. In many cases, changes in respiratory rate will be the first indication of a possible deterioration, much sooner than changes in other vital signs.
  • SpO2: Also known as Oxygen Saturation, SpO2 is the fraction of oxygen saturated- hemoglobin relative to the total hemoglobin in the blood. Normal blood oxygen levels in humans are considered 95-100 percent. Any level lower than 95% may compromise organ function, so consistent monitoring of this vital sign is crucial.

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While all of the above vital signs are important indicators of patient status, the combination of changes in respiratory rate and heart rate have been deemed the most crucial predictors, according to The American Journal of Critical Care. By focusing ongoing monitoring efforts on these combined vital signs, health teams can uncover subtle changes and irregularities that may be overlooked during regular nursing rounds. More importantly, continuous monitoring of heart rate and respiratory rate can help health teams predict and reduce the occurrence of potentially adverse events, such as cardiac arrest, and respiratory failure, even up 6 to 8 hours before the event. 

Changes in vital signs can occur unexpectedly, and can be unintentionally missed due to clinical teams work overload. Continuous monitoring is helping medical teams across the world better track patient vital sign irregularities, therefore allowing nurses and doctors to take necessary preventative measures to provide better care for patients. By implementing continuous monitoring technology, health practitioners are better equipped to improve patient care and outcomes and help save lives.

EarlySense’s continuous monitoring system tracks both heart rate and respiratory rate, the two most important vital sign predictors. This combination allows for early intervention opportunities, effectively enabling clinicians to take action and save lives. Find out more about EarlySense’s Continuous Monitoring solutions.


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