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Published in Health Care
Patient Co.’s SimPull equipment assists hospital staff with moving patients, which company officials say can help prevent injuries. Patient Co.’s SimPull equipment assists hospital staff with moving patients, which company officials say can help prevent injuries. COURTESY PHOTO

Medical startup raises $1M for equipment to move patients, protect nurses

BY Sunday, March 28, 2021 06:45pm

GRAND RAPIDS — The $1 million raised from investors moves medical product startup Patient Co. closer to the marketplace for an innovation designed to assist nurses and other caregivers moving hospital patients.

The company’s SimPull safety equipment gently slides a patient laterally from their hospital bed and onto a gurney to transport them, for instance, for a surgical procedure or diagnostic test such as a medical scan.

Founders of the Grand Rapids-based Patient Co. — which has offices in Traverse City and Scottsdale, Ariz. — tout SimPull as a way to prevent muscle strains or other injuries to nurses and caregivers, and to drive efficiency. Instead of taking several people to move a patient from a bed to a gurney or back, the SimPull device allows a single caregiver to do it.

“SimPull is the hood ornament for health care worker safety and effective health reform,” said Ryan Peters, Patient Co.’s co-founder and chief operating officer whose background is in population health management. “It’s a really great opportunity with the product.”

Peters and Andrew Heuerman, Patient Co.’s co-founder and CEO, say SimPull can prove particularly useful at small hospitals that are lightly or short-staffed, or facilities experiencing a nursing shortage.

Federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration regulations require that a clinician lift no more than 35 pounds at a time. As a result, it usually requires six or seven people to move a patient laterally and takes more than 20 minutes just to gather enough staff.

SimPull requires only one clinician and takes just a couple of minutes, creating “pretty staggering” workflow efficiency and time savings for hospital staff, which comes on top of improved safety, Heuerman said.

“This is one of the most common ways that nurses are getting injured,” he said. “In order to protect our nurses, we feel like this is a problem we have to prioritize through development of this technology.”

Product development

Peters and Heuerman met when they worked together on a project at Spectrum Health Innovations that led to SimPull’s development. Through Spectrum Health Innovations, they analyzed a problem raised in 2016 by a patient transport manager who was worried about injuries to his co-workers, specifically from lateral patient transfers, Heuerman said.

“He just thought there had to be a better way to do it. He felt, is there some way we could look into this further and create a device that could help solve this problem?” Heuerman said.

SimPull came out of that process at Spectrum Health Innovations, which analyzed the feasibility and vetted the market potential, and designed, developed and tested a prototype, Heuerman said. He and Peters ultimately spun the company out of Spectrum Health Innovations to further develop and take SimPull to market.

Patient Co. also went through Conquer Accelerator, a business accelerator operated through a partnership between Spartan Innovations L3C and venture capital fund Red Cedar Ventures, both of which are subsidiaries of the Michigan State University Foundation.

Patient Co. recently closed on the $1 million seed capital round that drew about a dozen investors including Spectrum Health, Red Cedar Ventures, Invest Detroit Ventures, MedTech Ventures, and Quantum Medical Concepts, an early-stage investment fund the Michigan State Medical Society formed in 2017.

The capital, some of which came in early 2020, enabled Patient Co. to take a prototype and “turn it into something we can actually use and sell in the field,” said Heuerman, a Grand Valley State University graduate with a degree in kinesiology.

The company this year aims to move further down the commercialization pathway, including going through federal regulatory review. They hope to begin selling SimPull to hospitals by late summer or early fall.

Using the capital, the company plans to pilot the SimPull this summer at five partnering health systems, including Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids and Sparrow Health in Lansing, Heuerman said. He hopes the health systems piloting SimPull turn into paying customers, and believes that SimPull can prevent thousands of injuries a year at hospitals.

“This device from a value side is really straightforward. It should be a really clear value-add for hospitals,” he said. “We’re really excited about what this product can do for health care.

“We think this is something that everyone needs.”

Patient Co. has a contract with Keystone Solutions Group in Kalamazoo to produce SimPull.

The company also intends to develop a next-generation version of SimPull for heavier, bariatric patients, plus other safety equipment for use in patient transports, Heuerman said. As well, Patient Co. could work with and support other innovators to develop their ideas or acquire innovations that are in their early stages, he said.

“At the end of the day, this isn’t the only product that we’re looking to work on,” he said.

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