How this 24-year old cancer survivor built a hospital bed to help patients sleep easy

Thursday July 05, 2018,

6 min Read

Get To Sleep Easy is a smart inclining bed that helps tackle many of the health problems arising out of bad posture of patients on hospital beds. 

When 17-year-old Nikhil Autar was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia he was given a 10 to 20 percent chance of survival. But after receiving two rounds of induction and chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant, it wasn’t the gruelling treatment but the poor sleep that Nikhil found unbearable. 

“It was the pneumonias I got from being weakened by chemo, the falls I sustained, which luckily happened into my father’s arms, and the pressure sores that stopped me from showering properly for fear of infection for a year. One side effect of my bone marrow transplant was that my lung capacity lowered,” says Nikhil. 

A wedge pillow, placed at an angle under his back, eventually helped Nikhil sleep better. So out of adversary, Get To Sleep Easy, a smart inclining bed, was born. 

Now Nikhil is a 24-year old medical student in Sydney Australia, with Get to Sleep, gives a part of its proceedings to charity. After his gruelling struggle, Nikhil is now a cancer survivor. But the treatment gave him a view of what patients with severe physical ailments go through. 

Working from a personal pain point 

Nikhil explains that many of his personal hardships were preventable with simple actions. Being a medical student Nikhil delved into research and was shocked by what he saw. He cites a pertinent example in reducing pneumonia. “Sitting up actually reduces rates of pneumonia and its severity to a great extent. The time spent in hospital too is reduced by 35 percent when sitting up,” he adds. 

Then there are all the uncomfortable falls and the resulting issues that patients face while in hospital. 

“Falls often occur in rooms when people are trying to get up, some when walking, and many happen when no one else is in the room. Many patients fall, and have no hospital staff knowing of their condition until days after.  And pressure sores can last years, lead to sepsis and are extremely uncomfortable,” Nikhil points out, adding that all this made him opportunity of Get To Sleep Easy. 


How does it work? 

Get To Sleep Easy’s bed can be operated using a remote. It will lift you up and down as desired, and there are nurse/doctor overrides for when patients are not safe to move, or need to be moved into a CPR position. 

The sensors underneath the bed detect one’s position on the bed, and monitor the movement patterns, as well as the pressure the bed is facing. 

“It sends alerts when coordinated with the breath and other sensors that detect someone is likely to fall or has already fallen,” says Nikhil. 

Nikhil before cancer

Voice recognition shields allow patients to call for help or make requests of nurses. Nikhil says that with current call systems in nursing homes, many nurses complain that it is difficult to differentiate when a patient needs something simple, like water, and when he/she needs something urgently. Get To Sleep Easy’s voice recognition software checks on the patient, asking them how they feel, if they have taken their medication, and done their breathing exercises. 

“We started prototyping with a powerful air pump and a lot of memory foam and mattress material. We eventually got it down to as small a pump as possible that could lift this weight,” says Nikhil. 

The team has now engaged with a manufacturing partner who can produce the beds for less than a tenth of the usual $2,000+ hospital beds. Most of the funding the team have been crowd sourced and through various grants. Nikhil, has worked with his fellow students and family to help build the product. 

Working with different partners 

Nikhil is currently developing weight sensors and other sensors and is enlisting the help and advice of companies like LoopPlus - creating a pressure sore sensor for wheelchair users to quicken development. 

“Similarly, we’re working on the breath sensors, as well as the API to connect all these devices,” says Nikhil.

Nikhil says the patented air inflation system was designed to allow the perfect amount of air and stop backflow from occurring, to keep patients safe while lifting them. It also does this cheaply and in a more portable fashion actuators.

He has also enlisted the help of Random Hacks of Kindness (started by large companies like Google, NASA etc) and had a hackathon to guide the development of sensors. 

“We now have a nurse module, which communicates with our sensors and gets alerts when patients are moving, or need help, like when they’re sitting up on the side of their bed for an extended period of time,” says Nikhil. 

Pricing and future

The prices range from $200 to $300 and the team claims to have early adopters lined up from nursing homes for product validation. Nikhil says they also have interest from organisations in the developing world too, such as state hospitals and family trusts interested in the device. 

Nikhil adds that they have made connections with dozen of nursing homes and hospitals, and from those, have leads that are likely going to turn to sales and testing facilities for clinical trials already. 

“We also have researchers from around the world giving inputs into everything from the product itself and its design to the API and database design to allow for this to be as versatile as possible,” says Nikhil. Currently in pre-sales, the manufacturing partner should start producing these by late September and early October. 

Nikhil believes Get To Sleep Easy is the start of a range of products that can improve health outcomes, and quality of life for many people around the world.

He explains that their API can allow for expansion, and the collection of unique data not only allows doctors to monitor their patients in real time and prevent emergencies from occurring in the first place, but also to connect other patient monitoring devices like blood glucose monitors and spirometers.

“In the very near future, we intend to start hammering down on our marketing campaigns, utilising humour to gain us funding as well as exposure via a series of interesting crowdfunding campaigns. We have also recently started work on The HeadPhillow,” says Nikhil.