Pressure ulcers, also known as bed sores, are common for those whose mobility is confined, such as wheelchair users. It happens when the skin is pressed against a surface for prolonged periods because of the inability to change positions or sense the need to do so.
The average person shifts their position unconsciously, just as they do when breathing. It’s automatic. But in the US and Canada, for instance, there are three million wheelchair users, of which over 300,000 have a spinal cord injury that impairs sensation under the torso and increases susceptibility to bed sore injuries because their bodies don’t tell them to shift.
Bed sores can lead to risks of infection, being bedridden, hospitalization, and mortality. Actor Christopher Reeve, known for his role as Superman in the 1978 blockbuster, injured his spinal cord from a horse riding accident and eventually died from an infection caused by a bed sore.
Co-founders William Mann and David Mravyan developed the idea for Sensimat when they were working on a mandatory project for their MBA at the Richard Ivey School of Business in Canada. And it was the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute that gave them the inspiration.
“We asked them, ‘What’s your biggest problem?’ Bed sores is a huge issue,” said Mann, who doesn’t recommend searching on Google for images of bed sores.
Sensimat is a “smart cushion” filled with pressure sensors that can detect how long a person has been sitting in the same position. It is designed to fit underneath a wheelchair cushion and connected to a mobile app via Bluetooth to monitor the data. Visual indicators will turn from green to yellow then red after user-adjusted time has elapsed, signaling to the user that they should change positions. If movement is detected then the lights go back to green.
The data is synced to Sensimat’s server. Mann says that the data can be accessed through a web portal, which can be used by healthcare professionals to monitor patients. Though it’s not yet clear whether the company decides to offer this service at a fee, the cushion and mobile app sell for under $600. Mann adds that there currently isn’t a similar product that can be taken outside the hospital or clinic and doesn’t, say, come with a $15,000 price tag.
Sensimat has been undergoing testing for a year and half, and only recently the company launched an Indiegogo campaign to ship the first batch of mats in June. Customers were given a chance to buy a mat for a discounted price. The company already met its $15,000 goal, but plans to continue with the campaign. The money raised beyond their goal will be used to make and donate mats to wheelchair users who need it.
And guess who else might need it?
“Beyond the whole medical use, the most obvious thing to put it in is developing one for offices,” said Mann.
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