Competition Sponsor: US National Academy of Medicine
Awardee Year: 2023
According to the CDC, one in four adults in the United States has a functional disability and the percentage of adults with mobility-related disabilities is 11.1%. Around 3.3 million individuals rely on wheelchairs for their daily living. One of the major challenges for those using wheelchairs continuously, especially those with spinal cord injuries (SCI), is the occurrence of a pressure injury (PI) which is localized damage to the skin and underlying soft tissue usually over a bony prominence. A PI is a serious, lifelong complication with the potential to “interfere with physical, psychological and social well-being and to impact overall quality of life.” Thus, there is a critical need for a technological solution to address this challenge and remove the barriers to health longevity for wheelchair users.
Research in the Principal Investigator’s lab has led to a first-of-its-kind prototype in which a fabric-based sensor network serves as an unobtrusive information infrastructure to continuously monitor both pressure and moisture at an individual’s contact points with a surface (e.g., bed, wheelchair); the acquired data is then harnessed to trigger an evidence-based alert and provide a personalized intervention in real-time to relieve the pressure and moisture at the specific contact points, and potentially prevent a PI.
The research team will work with individuals with SCI using wheelchairs (e.g., veterans) to better understand their needs, adopt a transdisciplinary approach to refining the building blocks in the current prototype that will reduce the potential for a PI, and lay the foundation for innovative assistive technology.