It’s the 21st century. We’ve developed a polio vaccine. Penicillin. Eradicated smallpox. But even with all of our medical advancements, we still can make the world healthier. So it should come as no surprise that two Carnegie Mellon Engineering alumni founded startups to innovate contemporary healthcare.

The two companies, Pittsburgh-based Rubitection and RistCall, were finalists in the HITLAB World Cup, held on December 4, 2015 in New York City. This annual healthcare competition calls upon global innovators in design, medicine, and technology to fulfill unmet needs in healthcare access and delivery.

 

Sanna Gaspard and Srinath Vaddepally

Source: Carnegie Mellon University

Sanna Gaspard and Srinath Vaddepally

 

Biomedical Engineering alumna and CEO Sanna Gaspard’s company, Rubitection, has developed a handheld device for early bedsore detection. As a graduate student in 2006, Gaspard researched the problem of bedsores and discovered they are common and may be severe. Complications arising from bedsores can lead to infection, sepsis, amputations, and even death. Nearly 2.5 million people are infected by bedsores annually, and out of those, a staggering 60,000 will die.

“Rubitection measures color changes in the skin that indicate bedsore development, detecting them at the earliest stages to support their prevention and management,” said Gaspard. “The potential impact is a lower occurrence of bedsores and a significant reduction in associated costs.”

 

It feels satisfying to place at the HITLAB World Cup. The award validates Rubitection's potential impact and innovation.

Sanna Gaspard, CEO, Rubitection

 

The idea for RistCall, a patient-nurse communication system located on the patient’s wrist, came to founder and Electrical & Computer Engineering alumnus Srinath Vaddepally when he was hospitalized for severe abdominal pains. He fell in the hospital and was unable to receive help for an excruciating 20 minutes. Vaddepally realized that the wall-based button method of patient-nurse communication is outdated, inconvenient, and—as evidenced—potentially dangerous.

“If a healthy 20-year-old college student can fall, imagine what can happen to older patients who are fragile and sick,” said Vaddepally. “After being discharged, I researched the number of falls in healthcare, and the stats were alarming. The majority of hospital falls happen inside the patient’s room where wall-based call buttons present an imminent danger. Patient falls in healthcare facilities is a $2 billion problem. The engineer in me couldn't stop thinking about a safer, wearable solution; one for patients and another for nursing staff.”

As finalists in the HITLAB World Cup, Rubitection and RistCall presented their innovations before a panel of judges and industry leaders. Rubitection won second place and a $5,000 prize, and RistCall earned an honorable mention.

“It feels satisfying to place at the HITLAB World Cup, especially after being selected from among 200 global applicants,” said Gaspard. “The award validates Rubitection’s potential impact and innovation.”

“We are saving lives, and the value we offer provides me with the encouragement to wake up every day, to make this innovation succeed,” said Vaddepally.