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After helping care for a woman with a horrific burn injury, Stanford University medical student Barrett Larson was pleased when this patient was able to leave the intensive care unit.
Following up a few months later, Larson was shocked to learn this patient was back in the ICU fighting for her life, this time due to an infected pressure ulcer. Larson was also shocked to learn that pressure ulcers are considered completely preventable, and yet about 1 in 30 hospitalized patients develop ulcers.
Pressure ulcers, widely known as bedsores, develop when patients lie in one position for too long. The solution - turning patients regularly - can sometimes be neglected in the busy hospital environment. The condition costs hospitals in the US up to $9 billion every year.
Larson took time off from medical school to conduct research on wound healing and wireless technology. This ultimately led to Leaf Healthcare, a venture capital funded startup with about 20 full-time employees, and growing. Their first product is a wearable sensor that wirelessly monitors a patient's position and movements.
Leaf Healthcare's technology is currently in 12 hospitals, with many more hospitals waiting for installation. The next generation of their product, which is scheduled to be released in early 2016, will be used to coordinate care throughout the entire mobility spectrum, from bedridden to fully ambulating patients.
"I work hard," says Larson, CEO of Leaf Healthcare. "But I really love what I do."
In 2012, two years after the company incorporated, Leaf found the perfect home in Hacienda: an office with light manufacturing space in the East Bay, close to restaurants, with a reverse commute from Larson's Silicon Valley home. A higher profile location in San Francisco or Silicon Valley would have cost significantly more and created a nightmare commute for Larson's team, which primarily lives in the East Bay.
"It's fantastic having an office in Pleasanton," says Pleasanton resident Mark Weckwerth, Chief Operating Officer for Leaf Healthcare. "It does always surprise me to realize how many people commute to Silicon Valley from here. I wonder why more companies don't locate in the East Bay, where there is such a talent pool of employees who would jump at the chance to not have that commute."
Nearly 40 percent of employed residents in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties leave the area each day for work, fighting gridlock for jobs in San Francisco, Santa Clara, and other counties, according to a recent report by the East Bay Economic Development Alliance, a public-private partnership dedicated to improving the East Bay economy.
Outbound commuters tend to be among the most highly skilled residents of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, concentrated in industries that include information, science, and professional and technical services.
Leaf's technology saves money and improves patient outcomes by ensuring compliance to patient turning schedules. The system tracks a patient's movement, adjusts the prescribed turning schedule in response to those movements, and sends nurses notifications when the patient needs to be turned.
Healthy individuals respond naturally to pressure cues by adjusting their position, but sick and bedridden patients sometimes require nursing assistance to make those adjustments.
The lack of movement and sustained pressure on body tissues impairs capillary blood flow. Starved of oxygen and nutrients, tissues begin to die. These pressure injuries start as areas of redness, but they quickly evolve into a painful, gaping wounds that can extend down to the bone.
Medical staff can prevent pressure ulcers by placing at-risk patients on a regular turning schedule, such as turning patients at least once every two hours. Many people credit Florence Nightengale with the development of turning schedules. During the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale and her colleagues turned wounded soldiers every two hours to prevent pressure ulcers. Turning schedules have since become engrained into the fabric of nursing care.
Although patient turning is one of the most effective methods to prevent pressure ulcers, studies have shown that compliance with turning schedules is 66%. This means bedridden patients spend approximately 1/3 of their time in positions that place them at risk for pressure ulcers. The Leaf system helps ensure that all patients at risk for pressure ulcers get turned and no patients slip through the cracks.
Leaf Healthcare has found in Hacienda the right combination of convenience and amenities to support its team and future success. Hacienda is a lively mix of restaurants, retail, housing and office space in Pleasanton, California. It is ideally situated near BART and major freeways, with easy access to the rest of the Bay Area and local communities. The mix of amenities available at Haciendas creates a rich environment uniquely suited for working and living.
"The most important thing is the time I'm not spending commuting," Weckwerth says. "I'm able to do other things, see my family more or work more."
Small business start-up
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Wearable medical technology
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