Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Made in Pittsburgh: 5 Great Ideas

Modern-day creation in Pittsburgh doesn’t just involve physical products; we also have a knack for hatching new ideas that can solve problems in innovative, unexpected ways. These locally based thinkers are applying big thoughts to bigger problems.



(page 1 of 5)

Sanna Gaspard
Rubitection

The Idea: To solve a longstanding health-care dilemma with cutting-edge technology.



photos by Douglas Duerring


 

Pressure injuries — previously known as pressure ulcers and commonly referred to as bedsores — are a surprisingly common affliction. The painful and often serious condition develops through a lack of movement; when continuous pressure is put on an area of the skin over time (as can occur when someone is immobile in a hospital bed), bedsores develop at the point of pressure.

Pressure injuries affect more than 2.5 million adults each year in the United States; one study of their prevalence determined nearly 2 percent of all adults admitted to hospitals will develop a bedsore.

Yet the most common method for detecting pressure injuries — the industry standard, to date — can be ineffective, especially on those with darker skin.

The “blanching test” is a rudimentary check to see if an area is the potential site of a bedsore: A caregiver presses gently on the skin. If it’s healthy, it should briefly turn white and then quickly return to its normal shade. If it’s unhealthy, it will stay white. Unfortunately, the darker the skin — regardless of race — the more difficult it is to detect a change in hue.

​Sanna Gaspard, Ph.D., became aware of the difficulties of pressure-injury detection (and the scope of the condition) while pursuing her doctorate in biomedical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. “When I learned about the condition,” she says, “how prevalent it was — and also that it was preventable ... those factors really caught my attention.”
Furthermore, the lack of a reliable detection method came as a surprise. “I thought, ‘How useful could an approach be if it doesn’t work on a large segment of the population?’”

​Gaspard began exploring the problem while earning degrees from CMU (a master’s in 2005 and a doctorate in 2011); simultaneously, bedsores were thrust back into focus for hospital systems. After 2008, Medicare and Medicaid stopped reimbursing hospitals for a number of conditions developed after a patient was admitted, including falls and trauma, certain surgical-site infections — and pressure injuries. Suddenly, administrators were more eager than ever to dramatically reduce the number of bedsores developed at their facilities.

“[The public] hadn’t truly ... considered that it was preventable,” Gaspard says. “It was assumed that when you went to the hospital, if you were there for too long, you would develop a bedsore.” While it’s nearly impossible to catch every pressure injury before it develops, she explains, “There are places that have zero occurrence of bedsores.”

As with many conditions, early detection is the key to prevention; the blanching test, though, remained woefully ineffective. While pursuing her doctorate, Gaspard formed Rubitection, a startup aiming to develop a better way to detect the formation of pressure injuries, saving hospitals time and money — and, more importantly, saving patients the pain and potential complications that can arise.

The result is the Rubitect Assessment System, a handheld device in the late stages of development. A caregiver holds the probe against the surface of the skin in a potential problem area, and the device takes measurements related to skin health. Additional results, displayed on a companion app, can indicate whether a pressure injury is beginning to form (or is already present).

In essence, the Rubitect Assessment System performs the same function as the blanching test — with pinpoint accuracy and little risk of human error, regardless of the patient’s skin tone.

“Our advantage ... is having a system that is an extension of the clinical standard — so we’re not going to be asking them to do anything new,” Gaspard says. “We’re just asking them to use a better measurement tool to do the same thing they’ve been doing.”

A long-term goal, Gaspard says, is gradually establishing the Rubitect Assessment System as the clinical standard; in the meantime, Rubitection’s task is to further refine the device and demonstrate to hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities that it is the most cost-effective, accurate way to treat the problem. (A handful of competing devices are also under development, though none operate in the exact way that the Rubitect Assessment System does.)

And keeping the device cost-effective is not simply a matter of appealing to hospitals, Gaspard says; by developing a device that won’t be prohibitively expensive, the potential for the Rubitect Assessment System to prevent bedsores grows exponentially.

“Not just in hospitals, but also in the nursing home,” Gaspard says. “Not just in the U.S., but also through clinics [around the world] by supporting low-cost tools for providing better care.

“I selected this project as my Ph.D. work because I thought it was an area where technology could save a lot of lives.”

–– S.C.
 

Next: Making the growing rideshare industry even more efficient
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2018

Pittsburgh’s medical lifesavers rated by their peers, including anesthesiologists, cardiologists, dermatologists, neurologists, ophthalmologists, pediatricians, psychiatrists, surgeons, urologists & many more.

How Pittsburgh is Advancing the Care for the Young

Meet four physicians making breakthroughs in medical care to improve the lives of Pittsburgh’s children and adolescents.

‘Conversations’: 8 Interesting People Revive a Lost Art

We sit down with hockey coaches, college students, farmers and the mayors of two cities to see what they had to say.

Restaurant Review: Bitter Ends Garden & Luncheonette is a Sweet Success

Becca Hegarty’s establishment in Bloomfield blends contemporary sourcing with old-fashioned community for a simple yet satisfying neighborhood restaurant.

Avalanche of Info. Shouldn’t Confuse Steelers’ Draft Aspirations

The Steelers could choose a Hercules, a bouncer or a guy with a big butt that he can “anchor,” but can any of them catch a javelin?

After a Decade of Fun, A Strong Avengers Goes Dark

A spoiler-free review of "Avengers: Infinity War."

Watch: Boujee the French Bulldog Breaks Free

Juju Smith-Schuster’s dog makes some sweet aerial moves to get out of its cage.

A Bitter Pennsylvania Rivalry Is the Focus of a New Movie

Few questions spark such intense debate as “Wawa or Sheetz?” A local filmmaker hopes to answer which regional chain reigns supreme.

Kraft Heinz Squeezes Out New Ketchup with Vintage Taste

Can a recipe from 1896 still taste as good?

Tour It: Historic Wilkinsburg Mansion Gets a Makeover

The Junior League of Pittsburgh's Show House is a 112-year-old mansion featuring 28 rooms decorated by a different local design professionals.

Today’s Home Relocating North Hills Furniture Store

Owner Jeff Lenchner says a Discount Tire store will open in place of the store’s current location along McKnight Road in Ross Township.

Is Gabby Barrett the Next Carrie Underwood?

The 18-year-old singer from Munhall wowed the “American Idol” judges once again.

17 Vintage Photos of the Steel City of Old

Take a trip back to a very different Pittsburgh.

These Creative Couples Transformed the Traditional Guestbook

Find out why these couples ditched the traditional guestbook and instead chose a drum head, a giant wooden letter and a dictionary for their guests to sign.

PIT Turns to CMU to Make Airport Smartest in the World

The airport authority will use minds at CMU to discover ways to make it easier for passengers to get from the terminal’s parking lots to their seat on the plane.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Watch: Boujee the French Bulldog Breaks Free

Watch: Boujee the French Bulldog Breaks Free

Juju Smith-Schuster’s dog makes some sweet aerial moves to get out of its cage.

Comments

A Bitter Pennsylvania Rivalry Is the Focus of a New Movie

A Bitter Pennsylvania Rivalry Is the Focus of a New Movie

Few questions spark such intense debate as “Wawa or Sheetz?” A local filmmaker hopes to answer which regional chain reigns supreme.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
First Look: Soju in Garfield

First Look: Soju in Garfield

Simon Chough’s Korean restaurant is six years in the making.

Comments

New Chefs Coming to Smallman Galley

New Chefs Coming to Smallman Galley

Smallman Galley will rotate its third class of chef/owners this June … but this time there’s a twist.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The 2018 Return of the Burgh-y Mother's Day Gift Guide

The 2018 Return of the Burgh-y Mother's Day Gift Guide

It's back! From the dog mom to the working mom, we've got you covered with these locally made must-haves.

Comments

The 5 Best Places to People Watch in Pittsburgh

The 5 Best Places to People Watch in Pittsburgh

A coffee shop, an iconic landmark, an airport and beyond — these are the best places to practice the art of people watching.

Comments


Coughlin's Law Wants To Be Your Mount Washington Destination

Coughlin's Law Wants To Be Your Mount Washington Destination

Notes on the busy new bar and restaurant near Grandview Avenue.

Comments

Smallman Galley Goes 3D With Its New Cocktail Menu

Smallman Galley Goes 3D With Its New Cocktail Menu

The bar team at the Strip District restaurant incubator continues its flights of fancy with Flashback Flavors.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Avalanche of Info. Shouldn’t Confuse Steelers’ Draft Aspirations

Avalanche of Info. Shouldn’t Confuse Steelers’ Draft Aspirations

The Steelers could choose a Hercules, a bouncer or a guy with a big butt that he can “anchor,” but can any of them catch a javelin?

Comments

Patriot Games Can’t Diminish Harrison’s Place in Steelers History

Patriot Games Can’t Diminish Harrison’s Place in Steelers History

James Harrison intimidated opposing players in a way not seen since the days of Jack Lambert and Mean Joe Greene.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
After a Decade of Fun, A Strong Avengers Goes Dark

After a Decade of Fun, A Strong Avengers Goes Dark

A spoiler-free review of "Avengers: Infinity War."

Comments

I Feel Pretty Isn't What You're Expecting (And That's Okay)

I Feel Pretty Isn't What You're Expecting (And That's Okay)

Reviews of "I Feel Pretty" and "Super Troopers 2," plus a rundown of events at the Pittsburgh Underground Film Festival.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
These Creative Couples Transformed the Traditional Guestbook

These Creative Couples Transformed the Traditional Guestbook

Find out why these couples ditched the traditional guestbook and instead chose a drum head, a giant wooden letter and a dictionary for their guests to sign.

Comments

The Best Ways to Reuse and Repurpose Wedding Decor

The Best Ways to Reuse and Repurpose Wedding Decor

From new decor in the home to donations to charity, check out these ways to repurpose leftover wedding decor.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Tour It: Historic Wilkinsburg Mansion Gets a Makeover

Tour It: Historic Wilkinsburg Mansion Gets a Makeover

The Junior League of Pittsburgh's Show House is a 112-year-old mansion featuring 28 rooms decorated by a different local design professionals.

Comments

Today’s Home Relocating North Hills Furniture Store

Today’s Home Relocating North Hills Furniture Store

Owner Jeff Lenchner says a Discount Tire store will open in place of the store’s current location along McKnight Road in Ross Township.

Comments