Nurse Invents Phone App to Support Child Car Safety
According to the National Safety Council, approximately 52 children died after being left in an overheated vehicle in 2018, the highest number in the past 20 years. While many parents and guardians may believe something like this could never happen to them, nurse innovator Maria Striemer, RN, BA, knows differently. After studying the phenomenon first-hand, Maria took the initiative to develop a solution that can make sure this type of tragedy never happens again.
As an emergency room nurse in Cincinnati, Ohio, Maria was shaken when she witnessed a child in her care almost die from heat exhaustion after being accidentally left in a hot car.
“It’s not something many people think about, but when that incident happened it really inspired me to look into the research and pay attention to the trends,” she said. “The number of incidents like this are growing every year, and we can assume many of these cases are going under reported. My husband said to me ‘You’re losing sleep over this and I know you’re a serial innovator, what’s going on in your head?’ And I said to him, there has to be a simple solution to prevent this.”
Together with her husband Grant, an engineer, she used the 3D printer in her basement to invent the “Backseet Buddy,” a solution that strives to give parents peace of mind they can “see.” The Backseet Buddy is a silicon device placed on a child’s car seat designed to pair with an app on an iPhone® or Android™. Using Bluetooth beacon technology, the Backseet Buddy device and app can detect when a phone has moved more than 50 meters from a car seat with the sensor still activated and sends an alert to the phone.
Maria understood that a successful solution to this problem would need to incorporate a behavioral science component that could override a parent’s behaviors, many of which are directly intertwined with their cellphones.
“We needed something that was really passive and relied on the habits you already had,” explains Maria. “Phones have become extended parts of ourselves. If we’re distracted by a phone call or music we won’t think twice about grabbing our phones, but we might not think to check the back seat.”
When the sensor remains triggered after the phone is too far from the car, the technology sends a loud, piercing alert to the person’s phone that interrupts all other audio—a simple sound that can make a life-changing difference.
“One thing I learned when I started to do my research was that there really isn’t anything like this out there,” Maria explains. “Car manufacturers are trying to come out with reminder sounds in new cars, but not everyone has a new car or can get a new car. Car seat manufacturers are creating seats with alarms, but if I’ve learned anything from my time in the emergency room, it's that people are desensitized to sounds. This is able to meet an immediate need with an easy, automatic solution that gives parents peace of mind.”
As a nurse on the frontlines, Maria was able to provide a unique perspective in developing a solution that addressed a parent’s worst nightmare, while also taking into consideration stigmas in the healthcare community.
“We created and developed this with the help of healthcare professionals. Nurses and doctors are some of the busiest people, working early mornings and late nights, sometimes with two pagers. We understand the impact of distraction, but even so we’re still baffled when these cases come in,” Maria explains. “You never know it could happen to you, or someone you love. It’s important that we move away from a place of judgement. I’ve had parents admit to me that they’ve done this before and they are so glad I’m addressing it. We’re providing technology for the responsible parent.”
After successfully receiving a patent, Maria and her husband are meeting with venture capitalists to help grow their solution and hope to bring the product to market in 2020.
“I have many first-time parents telling me they have fears of being sleep deprived or distracted, and how badly they want this product. It would be amazing if it were in the hands of parents before they leave the hospital,” Maria said.
Maria’s career as a nurse on the frontlines provided her the insight, inspiration and opportunity to brainstorm multiple solutions that have the power the change human health. Driven by the experience of bringing her innovative idea to life, Maria decided to found RN Inventions, LLC., a platform to help develop and promote other health-focused inventions.
Maria hopes that her success at creating a solution to address a critical healthcare problem will inspire other nurses to bring their great ideas to life.
She notes, “Nurses are natural critical thinkers, and there is innovation happening every day in hospitals that people don’t know about. I would encourage nurses to be bold- put your ideas to paper, discuss your ideas with other people and put them into practice. The opportunity to develop solutions that can save lives is an honor.”
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 Chadra, K. (2019, April 10). 2018 was Deadliest Year on Record for Hot Car Deaths. Retrieved from https://www.nsc.org/in-the-newsroom/2018-was-deadliest-year-on-record-for-hot-car-deaths