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Toilet Talk: The Heart Seat is Not Just Another Gadget

Author: Hamed S.

Published: April 29, 2022

Hamed is a Research & Development Electrical Engineer at Casana. After receiving his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering, during which he discovered a passion for medical devices, Hamed earned his Ph.D. in electrical and electronics engineering at Louisiana State University. His doctorate research focused on the development and application of sensor technologies, including biosensors, electrochemical sensors, and genetic sensors.

It seems like a new health gadget pops up in the market every day; some are practical, others prove to be more fashion than function. As someone who has spent nearly a decade studying medical devices, I believe The Heart Seat is not just another health gadget, but a novel device that can advance the at-home care management experience for millions of people living with chronic disease.

A Passion for the Potential of Sensor Technology

Growing up, I was always drawn to electronics. In high school, I built robots and circuit boards; at university, I became obsessed with medical devices. This led me to pursue a Ph.D. in electrical and electronics engineering with a focus on biomedical sensors and devices. Through my research, I had the opportunity to explore the capabilities of a vast array of sensor technologies, and I developed a fascination with harnessing the power of technology to assess the biological parameters of the human body.

During my Ph.D. program, I worked with and built various biosensors and data acquisition systems. My research focused on the development of printable electrochemical sensors capable of measuring concentration levels of hydrogen peroxide, an attractive compound to measure as it is a byproduct of many reactions that naturally occur in the human body (e.g. glucose production). Simultaneously, I built low-cost, portable measurement units that could perform the required analyses to assess the sensitivity and accuracy of the sensors. The through line of my research was developing accessible methods for collecting biological data.

The (Huge) Advantage of Form Factor

The Heart Seat has a unique advantage in that its form factor (ie. physical size and shape), a standard toilet seat, facilitates the integration of more sensors with higher accuracy. From an engineer’s perspective, the form factor of The Heart Seat is exceptionally large. The toilet seat provides a tremendous amount of space, all of which can be filled with electronics. Why is this important? Miniaturization, the process of designing a component to be smaller while still maintaining its power and capabilities, is typically one of the key challenges in developing novel technologies and can be the reason for compromising on accuracy. Without spatial limitations, we can focus on improving the accuracy of our measurements by utilizing the best technology available—not just what fits inside. This also enables us to develop, assess, and incorporate new technologies into the device in the future, all without reimagining the original form factor. In essence, the limit is our own imagination.

The Heart Seat is battery-powered, another design feature that is made possible by its large form factor. The battery does not need to be recharged or replaced for years. Over time, the data collected from the device can be translated into trends that indicate whether your heart health is trending up or down. The data gathered by The Heart Seat should enable clinicians to plan dynamic treatment steps for managing patient care, all without allocating additional human resources.

Building a Device that Solves a Real-World Problem

Having a revolutionary idea or mind-blowing technology—which we engineers have all seen a lot of—does not guarantee success. It is challenging to start a company, and far more difficult to predict the future; some studies show that 90% of startups fail. Upon deeper inspection, misjudging the needs of the market is one of the most common startup blunders.

I was drawn to joining the team at Casana because it offered the opportunity to work with mind-blowing technology to address a real—and vast—market need: a widely accessible, reliable, and effective at-home management solution for people living with chronic illness.

For decades, cardiovascular disease (CVD) has been the leading cause of death in the United States, and hypertension, commonly referred to as high blood pressure, is one of the key risk factors for developing CVD. These risks are further amplified when a hypertension diagnosis is compounded with comorbidities like diabetes and obesity.

Given the prevalence of hypertension in the U.S.—the latest estimates indicate more than 108 million U.S. adults are living with the condition—many of us are familiar with traditional medical devices, such as the blood pressure cuff, that are used for at-home hypertension management. Research has shown that remote patient monitoring—the use of technology to facilitate interaction between clinicians and patients outside of a conventional centralized care setting—can reduce the cost of care management by 35%. This is welcome news for the patient, hospitals, and the healthcare system overall. So welcome, in fact, that the remote patient monitoring market is predicted to reach nearly $31B in value by 2023.

What Sets The Heart Seat Apart From Alternative Solutions?

A device that sits on the shelf, unused, offers no benefit. From an engineering perspective, it is paramount to design a medical device that optimizes adherence, meaning the patient actually uses it.

The novelty of The Heart Seat is that the user literally does not need to do anything! The device is designed with the core principle of addressing the adherence challenge that has long hindered the effectiveness of traditional at-home blood pressure solutions.

The Heart Seat is designed to seamlessly integrate into your daily routine. Unlike other wearables, the individual does not need to remember to wear the device or worry about applying or using it correctly. By taking advantage of a required action that people do throughout the day—using the bathroom—The Heart Seat collects health parameters passively, and there is little to no learning curve for users.

As an engineer, building a medical device that is efficient, accessible, and reliable, that can produce high-quality and actionable data is a dream job. I believe The Heart Seat has the capability to improve a person’s quality of life while also providing them with the assurance that they are effectively monitoring and managing their condition.