The History of the Hospital Beds and Their Development

Monday, July 22nd, 2019, 4:55 am , Posted by MED +

Hospital beds play a huge role in patient comfort and recovery. However, they often get overlooked in the grand scheme of medical care. They play a key role in helping you get a restful sleep and recover comfortably. Today, they come in many shapes and sizes, use innovative technology and are designed to help people with specific health conditions and ailments.

But, they weren’t always as so comfortable or easy to use. Hospital beds have evolved significantly since they were first introduced in the 1800s. Here we will take a brief look at the types of hospital beds and dive back into history to provide an overview of the history of hospital beds and their development.

Types Of Hospital Beds

There are many types of hospital beds you could see in medical facilities, hospitals, and in a person’s home.  The type of bed you need is dependent on your health condition and treatment. Health education website, Healthfully, provides an overview of the most common types of hospital beds:

  • Gatch Bed
  • Electric Bed
  • Low Beds
  • Low Air Loss Beds
  • Circo-electric Beds
  • Clinitron Beds
  • Stretcher Beds



The History Of Hospital Beds

Pinpointing the exact origins of the hospital bed is challenging. Iterations of a hospital bed have been around for hundreds of years. They began as a basic stretcher. They had two long poles of equal length with a cloth material spread across it, allowing a person with a medical issue to be carried.

There is no doubt hospital beds have gone through significant changes over the years. A 2016 Journal of Physics: Conference Series paper titled, From Modern Push-Button Hospital-beds to 20th Century Mechatronic Beds: A Review, provides a historical outline of the developments of the hospital bed:

  • 1815: It’s estimated that sometime between 1815 and 1825 that beds with adjustable rails began to appear in Britain. They used a mechanical crank to move the side rails up and down.
  • 1874: Andrew Wuest and Son, a mattress company out of Cincinnati, Ohio, registered a patent for a mattress frame that could be elevated. This is considered the first iteration of the modern hospital bed we see today.
  • 1909: Willis D. Gatch, former chair of the Department of Surgery at the Indiana University School of Medicine, provided the next innovation in hospital beds. He invented the 3 segment adjustable bed, which today is often referred to as the Gatch Bed. It allows for the head and the feet to be elevated.
  • 1945: Push button hospital beds were invented by General Electric. One interesting feature about this design is it included a built-in toilet. The idea was to eliminate the bedpan.
  • 1946: Billionaire Howard Hughes was in a plane accident. Unhappy with the type of equipment available, he created a hospital bed to suit his needs. It had 6 sections and 30 electric engines.
  • 1949: Control and basic functions start to appear.
  • 1950s: In 1952, the Hill-Rom Company, developed a bed with an electric engine. In 1956, the company its first bed with full electrical functioning.
  • 1958: The Circ-O’lectric Bed was developed by Dr. Homer Stryker. Many other alternative models to address complex medical conditions were developed.
  • 1961: Beds with a basic bed controller were introduced.
  • 1974: Control panel on side rails was invented.
  • 1978: Side rails with remote control were added to the functionality of hospital beds.
  • 1980s: The 1980s was more focused on the development of the mattresses used in hospital beds. Therapeutic mattresses were developed. Some had position detectors and mechanics to weigh patient while still in bed. Patent exit monitoring devices were also developed. Other developments included a device to call the nurse and permanent cardiovascular monitoring became standard bed features.
  • 1983: An electric bed for home use outside of the hospital was introduced.
  • 1990s: Beds with more advanced functionality are developed. Mechatronic beds become a reality and developments are focused on more intelligent design.
  • 1993: Specific industry standards for electronic hospital beds are developed to protect against mechanic and electric hazards.
  • Today: Researchers continue to develop and build upon current hospital bed designs. New industry standards are evolving helping to make beds more functional, intelligent, comfortable and easy to use for patients and caregivers in a hospital, care facility, or private home setting.


Explore Hospital Bed Solutions

At MED+, we offer a large selection of hospital beds and home care beds. We have the right bed to meet your mobility and comfort needs. See our hospital bed solutions.

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