Out of 80 entries, the Groningen startup IVWear has made it to the finals of the Medical Inspirator Prize. Their concept for a portable hospital drip is competing with two other concepts, and the finalist with the most votes will win a whopping €75,000. The portable drip is meant to help speed up the recovery process of hospital patients. Exercise is one of the most important ways to speed up recovery after an operation, so the more patients are able to walk around, the sooner they will be discharged and the smaller their chances of being readmitted.
An idea with huge potential
The initial idea of developing a portable drip came from Bart Verkerke, a Professor of Biomedical Product Development at the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG). He dropped the idea at the University of Groningen Centre of Entrepreneurship, where law student Melcher Frankema and research physician Max Heintzen were following a course.
“Max and I both thought this idea had huge potential”, Melcher explains. “Bart Verkerke put us in touch with biomedical technology student Niels Weijermars and the team behind our startup was born.”
The three pitched their idea during the VentureLab Weekend in March 2017 and won. A few months later, IVWear also won the Sustainable Healthcare Challenge and the EBF Pitch, hosted by the Economic Board Groningen. “It’s really great to get that kind of recognition”, Melcher says. “Also because it tells us we’re on the right track here.”
Physical and mental obstacles
According to Melcher, the portable drip can save the healthcare industry in the Netherlands up to €60 million a year: “The sooner patients are able to move around, the faster the recovery time”, he explains. “Hospital admissions and beds are very costly, so this will ultimately save hospitals a lot of money.”
“But that’s just the economic side”, Melcher continues. “What I really love about it, is that you can actually help people. Not just with increased mobility, but carrying around a traditional and bulky IV drip also has a stigma. And that social stigma is also something that keeps people from getting out of bed. IVWear is small, almost like a fanny pack, so people can walk around and grab a bite to eat at the hospital cafeteria without other people looking at them as patients.”
First pilot and patent process
The University is helping them with the patent process and financing, and by the end of the year, IVWear will have a pilot test at the University Medical Center Groningen. “Something we learned along the way, is just how expensive prototyping is and how much time goes into it”, Melcher says. “It’s a lot of testing and retesting, because you’re working with the wants and needs of real people. Winning the Medical Inspirator Prize will really help us along.”