One of the most bittersweet things that can happen to a small medical device company like us is when a patient reaches out to us about how happy they are with one of our products. 

This sounds like it should be a happy incident, but sometimes it’s not.

Last year, an elderly patient reached out to us about our Clik-FIX Soft PICC securement device. She had been having treatments at the local infusion center associated with the local hospital where she lived. It just so happened that the hospital had decided to evaluate Starboard Medical’s Clik-FIX Soft PICC securement device, and during this evaluation, this patient was able to have our device used to secure her PICC line between infusions. Our trial at this hospital was very successful. The majority of nurses who evaluated the product preferred it over their current device; yet, when it was the time to move forward, Starboard Medical was informed that we were not on contract, and therefore, the hospital could not make the switch to our device, despite it being preferred for the benefits it provided to the patient. 

So, this lovely elderly patient did her own research, found us, and called to figure out how she could get the product. She said she asked her infusion center why they did not continue with our product, and the nurses responded that they were not sure why and that they liked Clik-FIX better. She said our product was a “life-changer” for her. She did not get bruises anymore or skin tears from the device. She was finally comfortable. Of course, without an Rx order, we could not supply her with the Clik-FIX Soft PICC Securement device directly, so we provided all the information directly to her so she could have her doctor authorize its use, allowing us to send her samples to bring with her to her infusions, and for her home care provider to use.  We felt compelled to get this patient a product that helped her feel comfortable while effectively securing her PICC. It’s a shame that big-business red tape can influence patient care so much. 

Another woman reached out to us, the mother of a young girl who was battling a severe disease. She had heard of Clik-FIX and wanted to try it out, and her daughter loved it. She loved it so much that she and her mom actually came by the office to visit in person. The mother brought one of our securement devices to the hospital where her daughter was being treated and asked if the nurses could use it instead of the silicone PICC securement device that they were currently using. 

They refused. 

The nurses secured the little girl’s catheter with their regular device and sent her on her way. It fell off during the car ride home…

When the little girl came into the office, she explained how the other devices hurt her and fell off, but she loved our device and how it still let her go horseback riding. Our device let her enjoy life like a normal little girl.

This mother referred us to several other moms with children who had PICC lines. Many of them asked the hospitals where their children were being treated to look at our Clik-FIX device. But once again, GPO contracts, incumbent manufacturer bundles, and nursing reluctance to try something other than what they have been using for 20 years prevented the introduction of new products that enhance patient care.

That is the bitter part of this bittersweet notion. 

As much as we would have liked to grant both of those women’s wishes and have our product in their hospitals, it wasn’t that simple. 

It is very difficult to get products from a small medical device company into a big hospital. There are blockades that make it nearly impossible. One of those hurdles is GPOs that often overlook the small medical device companies in favor of the big ones, simply due to the market share statistics and how it will affect the administration fees they receive. Another hurdle is existing multiple-product contracts from incumbent suppliers that tie pricing discounts and incentives to many different products used by the hospital. Thus, if one product is removed from the mix, pricing on the other products may increase. This basically forces hospitals to stay stagnant. Even if every single nurse in a hospital loved our product, if the hospital’s existing contract offers a different securement option, they couldn’t use our products and still be “compliant” with existing contracts. 

Bittersweet things like this make us want to make a change. We want to be able to help people with our products, but in order to do that, we need hospitals and GPOs to really consider new product options and allow them to be, not only evaluated, but also implemented if the evaluation favors the new device.

Right now, the system is broken and only works in favor of a few of those large mega-suppliers.  

And some of these mega-supplier’s securement devices have problems – some have so many complaints filed with the FDA, yet the product still remains unchanged. As a manufacturer of a new innovative securement device, we actually scrub the reported complaints from other manufacturers on a regular basis and put the information into our Failure Mode Effects Analysis (FEMA) process to develop designs or processes that help make sure our securement devices won’t have the same problems. 

Anyone can see this information. Just go to Maude Event Search, input the brand and name of your current device, the date period for your search, and hit search. It’s ironic how a device with so many complaints remains in the market, and how a new, innovative device has to fight barrier after barrier to get in.  What can we do about this?

If you have any tips about getting a device from a small company into a big hospital and overcoming the contract barriers, tell us! We would love to hear your advice. You can share what you have to say here: