Think back to the last time you cut yourself…either shaving or mishandling a knife or even a paper cut. No big deal. It happens to everyone, right? But consider this: there was a time not so long ago when a simple paper cut could have been deadly.
In fact, before the discovery of penicillin in 1928, a simple cut was anything but. Minor ailments by today’s standards, like an ear or urinary tract infection or any of several strains of skin rashes, were cause for great alarm because of the potential for infection and resulting death. In fact, until Alexander Fleming looked at that weeks old piece of bread and thought “Hmmm….maybe that furry green thing on that fetid roll could help cure the infection spreading through my body” (in a million years I would never have put the pieces of that puzzle together) people routinely died from infections that are easily cured today.
We are fortunate to be living in a time with access to a great many technologies and discoveries that have made our lives better, richer, safer and longer than ever before. We take for granted things like the World Wide Web, X-Ray machines, GPS systems, Air Travel, TV, Antibiotics, cars, telephones and so many more innovations without which we would be lost. But these things were not always available. And in most cases people didn’t even know that they needed most of them until after they were invented and mass produced. Today, who among us would even give up their TV remote control let alone penicillin?
Henry Ford once said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” His point, of course, was that often we ourselves don’t know what we need until after we’re presented with it. I can remember the time before the Internet quite well. Did we think we were missing something because we had to go to the library to get our information? No. But now, would I even be able to go back to pre-www days if I had to? I’m not so sure.
The people who lived at the time of the industrial revolution assumed they had reached the pinnacle of technological advance. They had seen the advent of trains, stream boats, and even mass production of Ford model cars. They had also seen first-hand the benefits to their general way of life afforded by these inventions.
I wonder what they would say if they saw my wife ordering a week’s worth of groceries in 10 minutes from Fresh Direct or me making reservations to be at a trade show in Barcelona on Tuesday, then flying back to Israel on Thursday only to board a plane for Beijing the following Sunday?
Which brings me to the point of this blog: there are those technologies that once created, discovered, or unveiled set us on a path of no return. For better or worse they are so disruptive as to alter life as we know it to the point that we couldn’t possibly do without them once experienced. I have always said that technology, in and of itself, no matter how cool or shiny or new is worthless. The real and only measure of the worth of any technology is in its capacity to make the human condition that much better. Either it helps us or it doesn’t.
Wellsense Technologies, a company that I founded several years ago, employs the kind of technology that fundamentally makes a difference in people’s lives. Wellsense’s technology enables caretakers (nurses, etc.) to view pressure points along the length of a bed-ridden patient’s body and, in doing so, determine those spots where the pressure is either intense or unremarkable. In turn, the caretaker is able to more effectively reposition the non-ambulatory patient to avoid the onset of a decubitus ulcer (bed sore). Anyone forced to lie on a bed over a long period of time without the ability to move is at risk for developing bed sores.
In fact, According to this month’s issue of Right Diagnosis from Health Grades, the incidence of bedsores in The US is an astounding: 474,692 per year, 39,557 per month, 9,128 per week, 1,300 per day, and 54 new occurrences per hour.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that caretakers, (including medical personnel), however well-meaning, have no way of knowing whether they have alleviated the pressure point as a result of repositioning their patient. They operate by intuition and are essentially forced to guess whether they have successfully done the job and simply hope for the best. In most instances they are operating blindly to prevent what could become a severely painful and life-threatening condition. By placing a bed sheet with built-in Wellsense technology under a patient, the caretaker is empowered to actually see whether or not undue pressure points have been alleviated by means of a color-coded easy-to-read map projected onto a monitor.
Does it work? You bet. According to Dr. Ronald G. Scott, Director of Wound Care at a North Dallas Long Term Acute Care Hospital that conducted one of the first long-term studies of Wellsense mapping technology, a significant reduction in pressure ulcer occurrence was realized over the six month period in 2012 once the technology was implemented. During this period, zero hospital acquired pressure ulcers occurred, in comparison to 16 pressure ulcers in the same timeframe in 2011 (check out more of the findings in the links below).
Like I said, the real measure of a technology is measured in how it affects our lives. And while I sincerely hope that none of you will ever need to “enjoy” the benefits of Wellsense, it’s gratifying to know that we’re making a difference for those who need help. In the end, it’s all that really matters.
Read Ran's posts on innovation, society, and the world at large.