Making the Case for Bringing Devices into the Operating Room
The unprecedented ubiquity of smart phones has put abundant amounts of information at our fingertips and forever changed the way we work, from the business world to the medical field. Beyond the efficiencies these devices have created for such things as accessing patient records and medical literature, they also are making their way into unexpected places, including the operating room.
With opportunity, however, comes risk. Like television remotes, cell phones are notorious hosts for bacteria,presenting significant hazards insterile environments. Enter SteriDev, a small medical device company that is changing the way mobile devices are used in sterile environments with its CleanCase cover.
We talked with chief executive officer and founder of SteriDev Rob Zondervan to learn more about the CleanCase, his inspiration for creating it, and how MedHealth helped him garner the necessary financial support and other resources to grow his business.
Questions and Answers
What was the impetus for creating the CleanCase mobile device cover?
A few years ago, I was invited to assist in a complicated surgery. Midway through, the surgeon asked me to take photos on my cell phone so he could use them to teach residents and physicians. At first, I was surprised by the request given how dirty cell phones are, but I went ahead and took the photos while staying outside of the surgical field. It was really difficult, though, to get the best angles. Afterward, I started talking with healthcare professionals and found that new technology was improving patient care in many places, but hadn’t made its way into the operating room due to the risks posed to sterile environments. That’s when I discovered the need to find ways to safely transfer devices of all kinds into the sterile field.
Where will you sell your product?
Although surgeons and small surgical centers are pushing for our technology, I believe health systems would be our primary customers. Another market we’ve been looking at is medical device manufacturers who are shifting away from developing their own computers and hardware. They have begun to realize how powerful cell phones and tablets are and see opportunities for integrating their software in to existing devices.
How has MedHealth and its annual summit helped your startup?
The MedHealth Summit exposed our company to the Southeast Michigan market, which allowed us to form a successful partnership with Invest Detroit. In 2017, we became a part of their First Capital Fund, which provides genesis dollars to new technology companies. This funding helped us get through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration validation process.
We also won the 2017 MedHealth Summit pitch competition, which awarded us with cash and in-kind prizes, such as trademark and legal counsel. This support was extremely helpful in moving our product closer to market. The MedHealth Summit is a rare opportunity for startups to be under the same roof as investors, healthcare organizations, and entrepreneurial communities—that’s why I’ll always keep coming back.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurs have to work incredibly hard to see their ideas through to fruition, and it doesn’t come without challenges. For that reason, I would tell aspiring entrepreneurs to do their homework and be confident in their technology—make a solid business plan and stick to it. Entrepreneurs often run into people who don’t understand the value of their technology, so it’s critical to get feedback from them, learn from their confusion, and adapt the product and pitch accordingly.
If you could meet any entrepreneur or business leader, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I would have to say the engineering teams involved in the early Apollo missions. The moon landing is one of the greatest technological achievements of all time, and it would be interesting to learn how they analyzed problems and came up with solutions so quickly. Their success underscores what is possible when you have the right people in the right place.
Create innovative medical device solutions that meet the functional demands of surgeons and the safety needs of patients.