A smart toilet seat to detect heart failure?

RIT postdoc Nicholas Conn, Heart Health Intelligence’s founder and CEO, helped develop the toilet-seat based cardiovascular monitoring system. (A. Sue Weisler/RIT)

A new toilet seat-based monitoring system aims to spot the signs of congestive heart failure in the privacy of the home, with the noble goal of lowering hospital readmission rates.

Developed by researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology, the sensors embedded in the high-tech seats will be privy to a person’s heart rate, blood pressure and oxygenation levels, as well as the amount of blood pumped out of the heart with every beat.

The intent of the university’s spinout, christened Heart Health Intelligence, is to provide an FDA-cleared device that would be purchased by hospitals and passed on to patients after they are discharged.

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By analyzing the data from regular check-ins, the company hopes to alert healthcare providers of any worsening conditions before symptoms appear so they can provide less-costly interventions.

“Typically, within 30 days of hospital discharge, 25% of patients with congestive heart failure are readmitted,” said Heart Health Intelligence’s founder and CEO, Nicholas Conn, a postdoctoral fellow at RIT and member of the development team. “After 90 days of hospital discharge, 45% of patients are readmitted.”

In addition, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reduces payments to hospitals with too many readmissions, including patients recovering from a heart attack, heart failure or coronary artery bypass surgery, as well as those with pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and total hip or knee replacements.

Conn estimates the loss for one hospital readmitting 150 patients can top about $500,000 per year, while the cost of providing 150 of the company’s smart toilet seats would only total about $200,000.

Earlier this year, the company joined RIT’s Venture Creations business incubator, and has begun preclinical studies and human-subject testing.

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