It's an almost weekly occurrence across the country. Either a nursing home or a hospital faces accusations or lawsuits over patients who develop severe bedsores that lead to extreme suffering or, in some cases, death.
One week it's a now-closed nursing home in California dealing with its third such lawsuit. Another week it's a San Francisco hospital facing allegations that staff cuts led to an uptick in the number of fragile patients suffering from bedsores. And on yet another occasion it's a New Jersey nursing home sued by the family of a woman who died after reportedly suffering from a bedsore that wasn't properly monitored and cared for.
For families, such situations lead to heartache and tragedy. For health facilities, they lead to costly litigation, higher treatment costs and damaged reputations.
"It's a serious concern for both nursing homes and hospitals, and it has a major impact on the bottom line," says Nigel Parker, founder and CEO of RashEndZ Inc., a company that developed a skin-aeration liner for incontinence garments that prevents and treats those rashes.
Bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers, affect up to 2.5 million patients annually, according to the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research. Complications include pain, scarring, infection, prolonged rehabilitation, and permanent disability. About 60,000 patients die as a direct result of pressure ulcers each year.
"The patient's well being is the primary reason this needs to be addressed," Parker says. "But pressure ulcers also result in 17,000 lawsuits a year, so nursing homes and other health facilities are at risk of liability if they don't do something about the problem."
Some health-care facilities have tried to address the mounting pressure-ulcer problem with better employee training and changes in procedures. Parker, an aerospace engineer, decided to tackle it from a different angle - technology.
Parker first learned of the problem several years ago when his cousin, Colleen John, a neonatal ICU nurse, approached him. For 25 years, she had treated severe diaper rashes in very premature babies using standard but ineffective topical-drug therapies. Those premature infants are especially susceptible to dangerous rashes that can develop into pressure ulcers in part because their immature skin is deficient in structural proteins and easily torn, according to the National Institutes of Health.
John decided to try something different and convinced babies' parents and doctors to let her use the respiratory oxygen source at the babies' beds to blow oxygen onto the babies' bottoms. While it was time-consuming, requiring her to stay overtime after 12-hour shifts, and impractical for busy nurses with multiple critically ill babies, she proved a better way was possible.
Missing, though, was technology that could fit into any diaper, connect to any standard source of gaseous respiratory oxygen, continuously deliver that oxygen to the entire baby's diaper-covered skin, and do so even while there was a mess in the diaper. So she turned to Parker and his engineering skills.
Four years later, after much trial and error, Parker's company launched REZair™, its flagship general wellness skin-aeration product line of devices that works for both infant and adult patients.
"Pressure ulcers present grave implications for both patients and the health facilities that care for them," Parker says. "It's incumbent on all hospitals, nursing homes and other health facilities to prevent them."
Nigel Parker, founder and CEO of RashEndZ Inc., is a senior management and systems engineer professional with more than 25 years experience in aerospace, medical simulation and other high-tech industries. While working at Honeywell from 1984 to 2001, he worked on the space shuttle, military aircraft and commercial aircraft, among other projects. Parker is the inventor of REZair, a skin-aeration liner that can be inserted inside a diaper, incontinence garment or wound dressing. The liner connects to any air/oxygen source and circulates air or oxygen on rashes, helping to keep the skin dry and speed healing.