Moving patients between sitting positions is slow, cumbersome and expensive, and are responsible for up to four injuries every day for New Zealand healthcare workers.
The Kera patient lifter has solved those problems, making it quick and easy for a single carer to move people between sitting positions.
Kera is the brainchild of founder Keith Alexander who’s been working on this invention over the last two decades, supported by the University of Canterbury. Keith is also the inventor behind the Springfree trampoline which has gone on to be a global commercial success.
Despite huge technological advances over the last 20 years, very little has changed for healthcare injuries. There were almost 1,700 insurance claims for lifting or twisting injuries in the New Zealand healthcare sector in 2016/17, costing over $5m.
Richard Shepherd is the CEO of HT Systems which was set up in January 2018 to commercialise Keith’s invention. “My role is to provide business acumen and support to the development team, but mostly as the Chief Wrangler to ensure we are staying focused on solving our customer’s problems,” he says.
“The concept came from a discussion with the chief surgeon at a local hospital who identified the need for a device to help nursing staff move patients to and from wheelchairs. Most work-related injuries originated from lifting patients and at least two carers were needed to lift a patient.”
The development team worked with a wide range of health professionals, carers and patients in real situations to ensure HT Systems delivered a comfortable, safe and easy-to-use solution. The prototype was tested in the market in May 2018 and showed that it radically improved patient transfers and reduced carer injuries. The small footprint makes it ideal for negotiating tight spots and it’s convenient to store.
By December 2018, Kera was being trialled in HT System’s initial target market – elderly hospital care. Richard says they’ve now transferred hundreds of patients in multiple long-term trials, and in June 2019, they began a long-term trial with New Zealand’s second largest multi-site care group, gaining strongly positive feedback.
Interestingly, the team doesn’t have a background in healthcare, so they approached the problem of transferring people from a different perspective. “We worked with health professionals to make up for our lack of experience and we mostly gained our knowledge working with carers, patients and therapists in the real world. The result is a patient lifter that doesn’t look or work like anything else in the market, and it needs only one carer.”
HT Systems sold its first Kera lifter in July 2019 and has since made further sales. The company is now focused on two short-term goals.
“Firstly, we want to establish the Kera patient lifter in the New Zealand market, develop variations and use the experience gained in this project to develop other innovations. Secondly, we want to meet our aspirations of marketing outside New Zealand, particularly with links through our investors into Australia,” says Richard.
HT Systems is now raising funds to help roll out the Kera patient lifter in the New Zealand market and prepare for expansion into Australia.
By Prue Scott