Mobile Medical Device Connects OR to Content and Reps

September 6, 2013
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mobile tech for OR staffOriginally published on MedCityNews.com. A duo of former medical device sales reps has turned to mobile technology and the cloud to alleviate some of the access, cost and logistical challenges faced by medical device sales rep of today.

mobile tech for OR staffOriginally published on MedCityNews.com. A duo of former medical device sales reps has turned to mobile technology and the cloud to alleviate some of the access, cost and logistical challenges faced by medical device sales rep of today.

Glenn Mills and Tom Pfleider started SpotOn Surgical in 2010 after they had both noticed several market factors impeding the ability of reps to do their jobs. First, hospitals were making it harder (and more expensive) for medical product sales representatives to get access to the operating room by implementing complex vendor credentialing processes. That was understandable as a way to increase security and decrease foot traffic in the hospital, but frustrating for reps.

Simultaneously, though, robust broadband networks and mobile devices were becoming widely available in hospitals. Medical device companies, meanwhile, were facing decreasing margins and searching for ways to reduce the cost of sales.

Mills and Pfleider, president and CEO of the company, respectively, saw an opportunity for companies to make their reps available for face-to-face customer support via a secure web connection, rather than in person. Thus, SpotOn was born.

It’s a cloud-based portal that links doctors and nurses in the operating room to educational and support materials for a device or piece of equipment, with the option of on-demand video conferencing if technical support is needed while the product is in use.

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For example, if a surgeon was working with an orthopedic implant but wasn’t sure which tool in the accompanying toolkit to use, an OR nurse could use SpotOn to read the latest user manual. If she couldn’t find an answer there, she could tap a button in the app that would send out an alert to the mobile device any rep assigned by the supplier to take her call. She would use the iPad or iPhone’s cameras to video chat with the rep, and show him any of the equipment she had questions about. At the end of the call, none of the information exchanged would be stored by the app.

As Mills explained how the app worked, one of my first thoughts was that it sounded a lot like Nurep, a mobile-focused company that’s working with medical device makers to provide on-demand, remote customer support through video.

The idea is similar, Mills said, but the model is different.

“It’s a much more shared-expense model,” he explained. “We have a low-cost subscription model where hospitals play a subscription fee per device (SpotOn deploys iPad minis in hospitals), and suppliers pay a fee to join based on their reach. Reps who wish to join pay an annual fee (of $100) to cover their entire territory.” Everybody pays a little because everyone gets value from the service, he said.

SpotOn is also working on building a comprehensive list of phone numbers for the support desks of every device and equipment supplier out there, whether it’s a SpotOn customer or not. Once that is complete, the company can offer a complete support solution for hospital personnel, who often don’t know who their sales reps are for a given device or have to scramble to find the manufacturer’s technical support information when there’s a problem.

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Mills said the California company’s first customers are device and equipment makers who want to expand their reach within a territory. Among them is Steris, which has a sales force of more than 500 professionals,

The company was self-funded until about six months ago, when it completed a round of private funding from investors including Cleveland-based Early Stage Partners. “We’re well-funded going forward,” Mills said. The next steps now are to continue signing up suppliers and slowly beginning to roll out to hospitals. The team is also putting together a multi-center trial to measure – beyond just customer anecdotes – the advantages to hospitals of having virtual support reps available.

Currently SpotOn is available for iPhones and iPads but should be available for Android within the next several months. Mills said the company should be ready to release the next version of the software by the end of the year.