Dr. Jonathan Bank, who recently joined the Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, PC practice, is not only helping people with his plastic surgery skill, he is helping change lives of people with disabilities with his knowledge.
Dr. Bank was recently in San Francisco to participate in the Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) Bay Area Makeathon, hosted by Google.org and TechShop San Francisco. The 72-hour event brought technologists, designers and engineers together to develop impactful technologies and prototypes designed to immediately solve challenges experienced by people with disabilities.
The Bay Area Makeathon for Assistive Technologies proposed, “What If you could impact lives in just 72 hours?”
As part of Team Smart Seat, a.k.a. Team "Smart Ass," they worked on solving a ‘What If’ scenario for a woman with a disability that left her paralyzed in her lower body and confined to a wheelchair. WHAT IF there were thin stickers with sensors on a wheelchair’s seat to map out the pressure points then send the data to your smartphone to prevent pain, pressure sores, and other health risks?
The challenge was finding a solution to minimize the risk of pressure sores (or pressure ulcers) in patients with paralysis (pressure sores are common in the gluteal region in people who are paralyzed). As the woman described in her ‘What If’ scenario, inadequate inflation of a seat cushion, a critical part of their body/wheelchair relationship, or lack of support can lead to a list of dangerous health issues.
Dr. Bank and Team Smart Seat were awarded the Google.org Award for Innovation and the TechShop Award for Self Manufacturing! Soon we’ll have the chance to help get these prototypes into the hands of people who need them by funding them on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo. Donations will be matched, getting us one step closer to a more accessible world.
Immediate and Long Term Upside to the Smart Seat Technology
The true innovation from this project is it's approach to pressure management. Until now, all other pressure solutions are essentially some type of cushion. The problem with cushions is they wear out after a while. So, rather than make another cushion, Team Smart Seat decided that patient awareness about their seat pressure is the smarter way to go. Plus, all the components for the Smart Seat cost less than $20 – another objective of the Makeathon was to create real solutions at a low cost. The Smart Seat is a pressure sensing mat that fits under the seat of a wheelchair. Each prong of the 3D-printed 'X' sits on a pressure sensor, and the sensors run through an open-source microcontroller kit. This all connects to a smartphone app, which shows the pressure in darkening shades of red, indicating where pressure points may occur, and alerting the user to move when one section has seen pressure for too long.
As you can see from this video, the Smart Seat prototype will quickly be able to help wheelchair users manage their seat pressure. It could also end up saving hospitals, Medicare and insurance companies billions of dollars spent each year treating pressure ulcers and bed sores. It’s such a costly problem that Congress passed a law in 2008 that states if a pressure sore develops after a patient is admitted then Medicare will refuse payment.
Congratulations to Dr. Bank and Team Smart Seat and the rest of the Makeathon participants.
TOM is a global community of makers using design and technology to address societal needs. During its 3-day Makeathons TOM brings together engineers, programmers, designers, makers, and people with disabilities to rapidly prototype extremely affordable solutions. TOM directs innovation to the places where the most impact is created.
Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google, seeks out and supports innovative approaches to tackling the world’s biggest challenges. In 2015, the Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities seeks to expand opportunity and increase independence for people with disabilities.
image: (top) The Smart Seat prototype - photo by Nathan Hurst (bottom) Team Smart Seat