Clinical Surveillance and Monitoring What’s the Difference?

In an article titled “Improving Patient Safety through the Use of Nursing Surveillance”, written by Karen K. Giuliano, RN, PhD, FAAN, published by AAMI Horizons, the differences between monitoring and clinical surveillance are evaluated. The article states, “Surveillance and monitoring each represent a distinct process in patient care. Monitoring involves observation, measurement, and recording of physiological parameters while surveillance is a systematic, goal-directed process based on early detection of signs of change, interpretation of clinical implications of such changes, and initiation of rapid, appropriate interventions.”

Employing a clinical example based on Early Warning Scoring System and deployment of rapid response teams, the article highlights the importance of surveillance in clinical workflow improvement and patient care. Giuliano writes that the “use of surveillance versus monitoring resulted in a mean reduction in rapid response deployment time of 291 minutes.” In using surveillance to deploy the rapid response team, a shorter median hospital length of stay of 4 days was documented.


“Soon after installation, Capsule Surveillance became just a part of our day-to-day operations. We’re able to safely monitor patients across the entire facility without the constant distraction and fatigue of responding to false alarms. Our nurses and respiratory therapists know it’s there and know it’s working. It’s really a testament to where we are with Capsule Surveillance. What we are seeing is that if a patient starts to degrade from a pulmonary standpoint, our clinical staff is able to respond and intervene much faster than before.”

Director of Respiratory Care, 500+ bed, community health system, southeast United States

Capsule Surveillance drastically improves a respiratory therapist’s (RT’s) efficiency as a patient care coordinator and improves their responsiveness to specific patient-related issues.

Respiratory Practice Manager, Hospital for Specialty Care (CT)
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Giuliano, Karen K. “Improving Patient Safety through the Use of Nursing Surveillance.” AAMI Horizons. Spring 2017, pp 34-43. PDF.