Ben Franklin


Millennium Medical Products: New Lift System Helps Prevent Back Injury in Health Care Professionals

Old habits are hard to break. Unfortunately, a nurse’s back isn’t. “Health care workers suffer more musculoskeletal injuries than any other occupation in this country,” says Rick Tuft, president of Broomall-based Millennium Medical Products (MMP). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a back injury occurs every 30 minutes among health care workers in America-and 38 percent of nurses suffer back pain or injuries severe enough to require time off from work.

Millennium Medical Products

Back injuries occur every 30 minutes among health care workers in America—many of which occur during patient lifting and transfer. MMP’s LIFTEM system is a portable crane-like apparatus that can accommodate patients weighing up to 700 pounds.

“Fortunately, injury from lifting patients is entirely preventable,” says Tuft. MMP is working hard to make the most of a growing movement pressuring health care facilities to employ “no-lift” policies and arm nurses and other workers with advanced lifting devices. Last March, the state of Washington passed the first legislation in the country requiring hospitals to provide mechanical lift equipment for the safe lifting and movement of patients.

“We’ve created a better way to lift patients,” says Tuft, whose company manufacturers LIFTEM, a portable lift-and-transfer system for patients weighing up to 700 pounds. “The manual systems currently on the market are becoming obsolete. LIFTEM can be operated by a single caregiver using a handheld control device.”

A Strong Case for New Technology

In 1996, Tuft, an engineer and businessman, joined forces with Dr. William Simon, an orthopedic surgeon who developed the original LIFTEM patent. From 1998-2000, MMP received $200,000 in funding from Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP) to develop and field-test the first unit at three different facility types-an acute care facility, a nursing home and a hospital.

The results were a success, and MMP has since begun manufacturing and marketing the device through a strong nationwide distribution network, including some of the largest hospital equipment distributors in the country. MMP has even begun to market internationally, shipping units as far as the Mideast.

“This is the ideal time for us,” says Tuft, referring to the growing number of workman’s comp claims related to patient lifting, as well as the shrinking pool of nurses in the health care industry. “Ben Franklin got us jump-started. We can help reduce employee injuries, improve patient care and save hospitals millions of dollars in payouts due to injuries. The return on investment for the hospital is quite attractive. This is the kind of product outside investors would find compelling.” Tuft says that outside investments would allow MMP to develop complementary products such as a higher weight capacity lift and a portable scale to weigh ambulatory and non-ambulatory bariatric patients.

Thanks to market research that BFTP helped MMP conduct, the company estimates there should be one LIFTEM for every 30 to 40 beds. “Having one on every floor or wing will be most beneficial to the health care workers, the patients and the facilities,” Tuft says. “If there’s only one LIFTEM in the entire hospital, employees are not going to want to go look for it, reducing the benefit from the investment.”

Getting Past the Barriers to Entry

Competing solutions have been around for 20 years and are entrenched in the marketplace. But a groundswell of support for safer conditions, combined with out-of-date technology, has given MMP a strong foothold in this niche.

“Most existing lifts are metal and can interfere with sensitive hospital equipment. We’re the only lift that has UL recognition,” Tuft says. “Hospitals are increasingly avoiding electronics that do not have UL recognition.”

“Despite the product’s obvious advantages, some caregivers still want to move patients manually because they haven’t been trained about their own safety,” Tuft says. Microfractures can occur to spinal disks and vertebrae over time from repetitively lifting heavy weights and often occur without pain until sudden severe pain and injury set in.

Dual Benefit: Better Care All Around

In addition to helping prevent injuries among caregivers, LIFTEM also provides better patient care by eliminating unintentional injuries and dropping of patients, which can result in bruising, dislocations or worse.

“Our lift is also being used to transfer patients from the operating table to a gurney, reducing post-operative traumas to zero. It’s especially popular for bariatric surgery,” says Tuft.

“It’s a very simple device to operate,” Tuft notes. LIFTEM can raise and relocate any patients-whether they’re obese or not-to a traditional transfer device such as a wheelchair or gurney. According to Tuft, the LIFTEM is the only portable patient lift on the market that operates without having to move the lift itself, thanks to a pivoting swingarm. An integrated scale uses precision strain-gauge technology and a microprocessor to provide stable, accurate and reproducible weight data, further enhancing patient safety.

Tuft says the company is actively engaged in new product development. “We have been getting two to three requests a month for a 1,000-pound capacity lift,” Tuft says. “As more health care workers learn about our product, and as the national ‘no-lift’ movement gains momentum, we’ll be well positioned for continued growth.”

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This article was featured in
Keynotes February, 2007
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