MIT Hacking Medicine

Wearable Device That Automates Prophylaxis for Patients
Hackathon Concept: MIT Hacking Medicine

Team: Brian Xiao, Carlos Gonzales, Gargi Patel, Tim Fitzpatrick
Role I Played: Ideation, Sketches, Product Design, Secondary User Research

Bedsores are a huge health issue not only in the US, but everywhere in the world. Bedsores, also called pressure injuries, happen when a patient is sitting or laying for long periods of time. Usually, healthy human beings shift weight as parts of our body become uncomfortable from long periods of contact with whatever we are sitting or laying on. However, patients who cannot move are unable to do that. As a result a pressure sore develops in that area.

If the patient is not properly repositioned every one and a half hours or two hours, depending on patient size and weight, this injury can develop in as quickly as one week. Contrary to the term “sore”, this injury is much more than that. Literally, a hole forms on the body, exposing tissue, muscle, and even bone. If left untreated, patients can quickly die from this injury. However, treating this type of injury is difficult and painful, because usually they occur in areas of the body that make contact with the patient’s sitting or laying surface. To rest, the patient must be positioned in a way that does not put pressure on the injury — but must be repositioned frequently while still avoiding the area of injury. It could take months to heal from a pressure sore.

Pressure sores cost American hospitals $10 billion dollars a year annually, and it is estimated that they cost $21,000 to $150,000 per ulcer; patients afflicted can have more than one. This problem affects 2.5 million hospital patients. 60,000 of them die every year — that is 7 death every hour.

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Could a wearable device be designed that is applied to the sacral region, in which chambers of air can inflate strategically to cycle the patient through alternate resting positions, thereby reducing the need for frequent nurse checkups? This device would automate prophylaxis by signaling the need for action, and indirectly increasing blood flow, employing its own form of anodyne therapy. Additionally through sensors embedded throughout chambers, this device could also confirm or verify its own effects of intervention. By addressing the human barriers to pressure injury prevention, this inclusive design for patients can even exist without the dependency on the caregiver.

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