Over the past 6 years, Augment Medical has been working to help disabled patients activate the nurse call system. For many people with disabilities, it is difficult to push the big red button on the remote control in a standard hospital room. PatientLink was designed as an easy way for anyone to get help when they most need it in the hospital or nursing faculty room. Imagine you have just been in a car accident, or are dealing with the loss of motor function due to ALS, or you have had a stroke. Pressing a button is not as easy as it once was. Patients in these situations feel alone and scared.
A team of 5 students (Daniel Bieber, Richard Daniels, Wenbo Zhang, Astor Liu and Tim Martin) and and a great professor (Andrew DiMeo), from NC State developed a patented solution using a sensor that detects the muscle movements in your forehead to turn on the nurse call system. If the patient wants to call the nurse into their room, all it takes is a raise of the eyebrow. The prototype works great and uses technology similar to what is inside a Fitbit or Apple Watch. The only hangup to this story is the lack of a huge market for nurse call devices in hospitals. Patients are in need but because there are relatively few compared to the overall hospital population, PatientLink was destined to be a niche device that faced a difficult path to market.
The team from Augment Medical worked with a group of therapists and nurses at WakeMed to develop the product based on the needs of the patients they cared for everyday in the intensive care unit. PatientLink has gone through 4 versions that started based on the Arduino hobby platform and is now a professionally designed and developed custom circuit board that can connect to everything from an iPhone to a smart home. Augment Medical, a spinout from the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering department of NCSU and UNC-CH, was created to produce a product to solve that problem. Through Augment, the founders attended business training, networking, pitch competitions, conferences, and funding meetings that were available to them. In the end, the best application of the technology developed may not be the hospital room but the home environments patients with disabilities will live in once they leave the intensive care unit. This is where MEDIC comes into the picture.
MEDIC offers the ability to take the technology to the next level by redesigning the product for use in the home. Integrating with students from UNC-CH and NCSU, MEDIC has built a team of students to develop an app for a smartphone based alert system and a new design to fit the home environment. The student interns from MEDIC will ensure that PatientLink will not be simply put on a shelf somewhere and collect dust. Because of MEDIC, the product has the ability to impact the 2 million patients who live at home with a communication disability.
If you would like to support projects like the PatientLink and others, you can donate to our organization atmedic-nc.org/support/. If you would like to join our Collaborative, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org