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Pittsburgh Health Innovators Finalists In Global Innovation Competition

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
Rubitection CEO Dr. Sanna Gaspard and Ristcall CEO Srinath Vaddepally.

With an initial pool of 192 applicants, the HITLAB World Cup Innovators Summit brings high stakes competition to healthcare innovators internationally. Two Pittsburgh companies, Rubitection and Ristcall, are among the five finalists who will be traveling to New York City in search of the coveted $10,000 grand prize. Rubitection CEO Dr. Sanna Gasperd and Ristcall CEO Srinath Vaddepally sat down with Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer to discuss their products and their prospects in winning the competition.

Gasperd first became aware of the problem of bed sores while studying at Carnegie Mellon University. While she admits it may not be the most deadly sounding medical issue, Gasperd revealed that bed sores are a lot more serious than many people recognize.

“People don’t really realize how severe they can get,” Gasperd said.   She explained that bed sores can lead to many complications including infections, sepsis, amputations and even death.  Of the 2.4 million people who are infected by bed sores a year, 60,000 of them will die.

To combat this, Gasperd had the concept for Rubitection.  They’ve since invented a small handheld device that detects changes in the skin and can give early warning signs of a bed sore forming. If a bed sore is detected early on, it can be treated before it becomes too severe.

Vaddepally’s company, Ristcall seeks to replace the traditional bell and whistle call system used by hospitals with a wrist mounted touch screen. The watch allows patients to contact nurses from anywhere in the hospital with their exact problem and also informs nurses how long the patient has been calling for help.

Vaddepally revealed that the idea for the Ristcall system was born out of a personal experience of his.

“I was once hospitalized for an abdominal pain,” Vaddepally said. “It was 5 a.m. in the morning; I was trying to reach over to the call for help button. I slipped from the bed, pulled the cord, nobody showed up for the next 20 minutes.”

The Ristcall watch can also be customized to suit patient needs. The device has been tested in nursing homes around Pittsburgh, where its programing was adjusted in order to better meet the demands of the elderly patients there who might not be tech savvy. Vaddepally also said that the Ristcall watches have been found usable by patients who have poor eyesight or are blind.

When it came to the HITLAB competition itself, both CEOs displayed confidence in their products and their chances of winning.

“You have to have confidence to do this,” Gasperd said. “This is not the kind of work for the weak.”

The HITLAB World Cup will take place on December 4th at Columbia University in New York City. Besides the $10,000 grand prize, second place winners will receive $5,000 and third place will receive $3,000.

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