Technology reshapes incontinence, skin, wound care

 - 
Friday, November 30, 2018

Technology may not be the first word that springs to mind in reference to the incontinence, skin and wound care market, but perhaps its time that it took front and center. Innovations in connected care and therapeutic materials are becoming prominent in the category and offer viable applications for HME providers.

One option for the incontinence segment just launched in September: the DFree portable bladder monitor from San Diego-based Triple W. The wearable product detects bladder volume levels and notifies the patient when it is time to go to the bathroom.

Ty Takayanagi, vice president of marketing and business development, says the product came about as an alternative to conventional garments and implants. 

“There isn’t a solution besides pads or diapers and implants on the other end of the spectrum, but those are invasive,” he said. “We developed a noninvasive product to help.”

DFree (which stands for Diaper Free) uses an ultrasound sensor to monitor the bladder around the clock. 

A sensor the size of a quarter is secured to the lower abdomen using medical tape and uses ultrasound to monitor the change in bladder size. Using Bluetooth technology, notification is then sent to a smartphone or tablet used by the patient or caregiver to inform them when the bladder is getting full.

“This is the first wearable device for incontinence,” Takayanagi said. “It is very discreet. The patient can set the bladder level on a scale of zero to 10, with zero being empty and 10 being completely full.”

At this nascent stage of market introduction, Triple W is looking at HME providers as a primary sales outlet for the DFree product. The sales hook, he says, is to reduce the burden of care for family caregivers and lower costs overall for incontinence care.

For now, the company is furnishing the product on consignment through the HME retail sales channel “because we are very new and some retailers have questions about its performance. So we will send a display unit and drop ship any orders that come through them.”

If sales take off and the provider wants to carry some inventory, Takayanagi said the company is open to establishing a more comprehensive relationship. 

Although based in California for the US market, Triple W is a global concern and has introduced the DFree in 500 senior care facilities in Europe. It is also test marketing in two senior care facilities in California now, Takayanagi said.

Yarn technology

Advances in apparel – notably more sophisticated materials – are being designed to help protect patients with sensitive skin for wound prevention and greater comfort, said Deborah Vezan, president and owner of Limbkeepers in New London/Norwich, Conn. 
Through yarn technology comprised of polypropylene and CoolMax polyester fabric, Limbkeepers knits arm sleeves, leg sleeves and gloves to help protect fragile, thin skin on arms, hands and legs to prevent skin tears, abrasion, bruising and injury from impact, Vezan said.

“Our non-compression limb protectors provide seamless, form fitting, cushioned comfort and can be easily worn under apparel without bulk,” she said. “Our blend of high-performance yarns make a cushioned form-fitting sleeve without compression. The rebound stretch keeps these sleeves from sliding down and helps retail their shape.”

The Limbkeepers line is produced for retail sale and all products are reusable, Vezan said.

“They are not coded for insurance,” she said. “Our reasonable and affordable prices were a deliberate decision when we launched five-and-a-half years ago. We have many wound care departments making referrals of our products to their patients once they have healed or the wounds are no longer open.”

The products are sold for home use as well as for application in various post-acute care facilities.

Mastering catheters

Becoming adept at catheter provision also relies on technology, though it’s more related to service than anything else, says John Anderson, CEO of Newport Beach, Calif.-based Cure Medical.

“Customers want a seamless experience from start to finish,” he said. “That includes on-time delivery and quality products that meet expectations every time. I believe customers do not spend time changing products and deliveries with provider services that work, so a happy customer is yours to keep.”

Information technology plays a key role in understanding the customer base from the standpoint of what they want from a product and provider, Anderson said.

“Online research is widely used now by end users, so just having lists of part numbers on your site no longer works,” he said. “Customers what to see how products offer real solutions to real people. We know firsthand that many of our customers are using social media along with search engine results to find the right solution that fits their individual needs.”

HME providers can position themselves as the go-to source for catheters by offering “quality products, quality education and quality service,” Anderson said. “There will always be companies that don’t offer quality in all areas and their audience is your future customer base.”