Steve Schmutzer, left, and Patrick Bols co-founded Fort Collins-based Firefly Medical Inc. and the startup recently won an Edison Award for the IVEA, a device that allows patients to be moved safely, despite being hooked up to numerous medical devices. Jonathan Castner / For BizWest

Fort Collins startup targets patients’ mobility Device hoped to free up staff, cut health costs

FORT COLLINS — Next time you visit a patient in the hospital, you might notice a gadget standing next to the bedside that looks a bit like a Segway, that personal motorized scooter that inventor Dean Kamen introduced more than a decade ago.

But it’s not. It’s probably an IVEA.

It can serve the same function as the pole from which that familiar clear bag of intravenous solution hangs – a pole that was invented in 1918 and has changed little since then. But the IVEA also can help the patient walk around – “ambulate,” in hospital-speak – while connected to that IV bag instead of being confined to a wheelchair or relying on an awkward walker.

The IVEA is the brainchild of Steve Schmutzer, who co-founded Firefly Medical Inc. in 2013 to patent and develop the device that he believes can not only aid patients but save work for hospital staff as well.

“In a previous life, I was a registered nurse at Poudre Valley Hospital,” Schmutzer said. “I’ve done a lot of things since then” – in the graphics, apparel and custom-shipping industries – “and business taught me about business and about myself. But the IVEA represents coming full circle for me, back to my first profession. It was born out of that experience, and I let myself create it in my head.”

That experience included memories of how it took two or three nurses to move a patient around while he or she was connected to several things at the same time such as monitors, oxygen tanks, chest-tube drainage systems, catheter bags, IVs and power strips.

The IVEA can hold all those things at once, Schmutzer said, whether in a stationary position at a bedside or as the patient ambulates. The wheels can be locked or unlocked, and its ergonomic design assists the patient from a sitting to a standing position and back.

“I deliberately sought the input of more than 150 nurses and clinicians in designing this,” Schmutzer said. “The creative process was much more clinician oriented.

“It’s a full-infusion support system,” he said. “Anything you can mount to an IV pole, you can mount to this, and it should only require one staffer to assist, so it frees up other nurses to go to their other patients.”

One of those Northern Colorado nurses who was among the first to try out the IVEA prototype was Paige Nichols, who especially liked its labor-saving aspect.

“Every nurse wants to do what’s best for their patients,” she said, “but time and staff are precious resources in short supply. If I have to wait for another nurse to come and help me ambulate a patient, it might not happen. With the IVEA, we can get the patient up and moving on our own, and know that we’ve done what’s best for them.”

That labor-saving aspect isn’t the only cost-cutting advantage Schmutzer sees. He said he expects the IVEA to help protect caregivers from injury by giving the patient the opportunity to rely on the equipment rather than the nurse for physical support. If a patient can be safely mobilized sooner, he said, it can lead to an earlier discharge and an improved outcome.

The 30-pound gadget is height-adjustable, to fit everyone from small children to tall adults, he said, and its design positions the patient’s weight to add stability and keep it from tipping over.

Most falls occur between the hospital bed and the bathroom, Schmutzer said, so the IVEA can fit through doorways as small as 30 inches and can pivot 360 degrees, with a patient, inside a five-foot diameter circle.

His design went to a manufacturer in China last fall, and he hopes to begin distribution soon.

“We’ll have the first commercial inventory in a couple of weeks,” he said. “We’re filling out contracts with distributors, and we’ll be able to fill orders by the end of the month.”

The marketing should be aided by a silver medal for extraordinary innovation and design that the IVEA won April 23 at the 2015 Edison Awards in New York.

“We’ll market it to health-care facilities – primarily hospitals, medical-surgical environments, wherever you have patients who are not bed-bound,” Schmutzer said. He envisions a price point of less than $2,000 apiece – but cheaper when bought in volume.

“The idea is to be at every bedside,” he said, “to replace the IV pole, the walker and the O2 caddie.”

And it’ll be left to the hospital’s staff to explain to visitors that what’s parked at the patient’s bedside isn’t a Segway.

Dallas Heltzell can be reached at 970-232-3149, 303-630-1962 or dheltzell@bizwestmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DallasHeltzell.

FORT COLLINS — Next time you visit a patient in the hospital, you might notice a gadget standing next to the bedside that looks a bit like a Segway, that personal motorized scooter that inventor Dean Kamen introduced more than a decade ago.

But it’s not. It’s probably an IVEA.

It can serve the same function as the pole from which that familiar clear bag of intravenous solution hangs – a pole that was invented in 1918 and has changed little since then. But the IVEA also can help the patient walk around – “ambulate,” in hospital-speak – while connected to that IV bag instead of being confined to a wheelchair or relying on an awkward walker.

The IVEA is the brainchild of Steve Schmutzer, who co-founded Firefly Medical Inc. in 2013 to patent and develop the device that he believes can not only aid patients but save work for hospital staff as well.

“In a previous life, I was a registered nurse at Poudre Valley Hospital,” Schmutzer said. “I’ve done a lot of things since then” – in the graphics, apparel and custom-shipping industries – “and business taught me about business and about myself. But the IVEA represents coming full circle for me, back to my first profession. It was born out of that experience, and I let myself create it in my head.”

That experience included memories of how it took two or three nurses to move a patient around while he or she was connected to several things at the same time…