Hospital beds are probably one of the most easily overlooked and yet most essential parts of healthcare. For this blog, we are shining the light on the history of the hospital bed, giving it some the much-needed attention.
The Litter and Beyond: The Hospital Bed’s Ancient Ancestry
The hospital bed, as we know it today, has its very first ancestors in the ‘litters’ of Medieval Britain: contraptions that consisted of two long poles that held a piece of cloth in between them and acted as hammocks. Originally, they were not used specifically for the transportation of sick or immobile persons like modern hospital beds are. The primary use of the litters was the transportation of individuals after partaking in communal baths so they would not have to touch anything and get filth on their just-washed bodies. Chair versions of the litter were also a popular mode of transportation for early Egyptian and Roman royals. Because of their practicality, litters became popular solutions for the transport of immobile patients.
Between the Medieval times and now, the modern hospital bed went through a series of facelifts, brought on by necessities in improving the delivery of care to patients, especially to those in critical care.
One of the earliest types of the hospital bed is said to have appeared between the years 1815 and 1825 in London. Its design was supposedly that of a simple bed equipped with adjustable side rails, although not much information is available on who invented it or where it was first used.
The Beginning of the Modern Hospital Bed
The modern-day hospital bed’s first predecessor would have to belong to mattress maker Andrew Wuest and Son’s. The design, registered in 1874, featured a mattress frame with a hinged head. This introduced the option of manual elevation.
This design was in wide use in hospitals across Europe and America but proved to be problematic to move. The addition of the use of casters and switching materials from iron and brass to steel tubes revolutionized the mobility of the hospital bed.
But one of the biggest – and still relevant – breakthroughs in the evolution of the hospital bed came with the invention of the Gatch bed, a design template still in use in many of the world’s hospital beds and a significant predecessor of today’s more advanced, adjustable beds.
The Gatch bed was invented by and named after Dr. Willis D. Gatch, of the Indiana University School of Medicine, in 1909. The bed featured a bed frame with three movable sections that helped ease bladder/bowel irritation, adjust to sitting positions for overweight patients and prevent dyspnea.
The Beds of Today
In 1945, the push-button bed was invented. This has seen improvements over the years and now comes with many of its modern day standard features including automatic elevation in three parts, wheels, adjustable side rails, and tilting options. There are also some specialist beds that help with the movement of immobile patients, like those with severe spinal injuries.
Thanks to new technologies, the modern-day hospital bed has been made even more effective in the care and comfort of patients with improvements in bed linens. The cleanliness and proper handling of healthcare linens make sure that the patients are not only comfortable during their stay at the any healthcare facility, but that they have ample protection against contaminations.