A Spotlight on eLab Startup SmartRest

SmartRest is an eLab startup aiming to transform the nature of healthcare for bedridden and elderly individuals. Founded by Paulina Villacreces (MSc ’19), a graduate student in the College of Human Ecology studying Design and Environmental Analysis, the device is an innovative solution to preventing pressure ulcers in bedridden patients, especially the elderly.

Paulina was inspired to found SmartRest after witnessing firsthand how difficult it was to provide adequate care to those suffering from pressure ulcers. In 2016, her grandmother was afflicted with a pressure ulcer that required an entire year of treatment and almost constant care. This inspired Paulina to begin researching the issue more deeply. Her main finding was that most bedridden patients have to be manually turned and repositioned by nurses at least every two hours, which can take a great toll on patients and caregivers alike. Seeing the need for a better solution in the market, Paulina knew she wanted to create something that could alleviate this problem and be used across hospitals, assisted living facilities, and in the comfort of patients’ homes. She designed SmartRest, a bed overlay device that provides smart technology that can detect and reduce areas in the body that have high pressure and automatically readjust patients accordingly.

SmartRest was originally Paulina’s thesis project, but she started looking for entrepreneurial opportunities that would help her take SmartRest to the next level. After participating in the “Whole Human Healthcare Innovation Challenge” by the Cornell Institute for Healthy Futures and taking a short course instructed by eLab Managing Director Ken Rother, she decided she wanted to apply for a spot in the 2018-2019 eLab Cohort. Since officially joining eLab in the fall, the program has been instrumental to the development of SmartRest, especially with respect to their customer discovery process. Through the resources and funding provided by eLab, SmartRest has expanded their customer segment to focus on not just elderly patients, but bedridden people who struggle with mobility as well. eLab has helped Paulina navigate the extensive trial and error process for SmartRest, which is a typical challenge for most new medical devices. She is continuing to refine the prototype, trying out different materials and mechanisms for the product.

Another eLab resource for SmartRest has been access to insight from lead entrepreneurs and innovators in the medical technology field. Paulina had the chance to attend the 2018 LeadingAge Conference as well as the Pressure Ulcer Summit, where she gained a better understanding of how to approach the health needs of her target consumers. She has also learned a great deal about marketing, branding, and other key aspects of entrepreneurship from several keynote speakers and bootcamps throughout the eLab program. Paulina is currently in the process of applying to several incubator programs and seeking funding to begin manufacturing the product. She is looking forward to conducting her pilot study of SmartRest with older adults this summer both at Cornell and at a local retirement facility. More broadly, Paulina is excited to further develop SmartRest over the next several months and eventually make a great impact in the lives of patients.

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