Pressure injuries (PIs), also known as bed sores, can be a silent killer in hospitals, aged care and home care settings. Where present, they can increase the risk of fatality in bed-ridden patients by up to 500 per cent, and the devastating effects are estimated to cost the Australian public healthcare system over $9 billion annually.
Until now, they have been extremely difficult to detect and prevent, with the ability to develop within hours and become life-threatening in days. Checking for PIs requires up to two nurses to roll and inspect immobile patients daily, a physically taxing task that can be neglected due to time and resource pressures.
As PIs develop unseen beneath the skin, the sole key outward symptom, non-blanching skin redness, will only become visible after the injury has already begun to occur. If left unchecked, it can develop into a severe complication very quickly. Redness can be particularly difficult to detect in patients with darker skin tones, and if staff conducting the assessment are fatigued or in low-light conditions.
Creating tech to see the unseeable
With significant financial and mentoring support from the Entrepreneurs’ Programme Accelerating Commercialisation service, Australian MedTech company Lenexa Medical has created new technology to allow clinicians and caregivers to see beyond the limitations of their own eyesight, enabling for the first time personalised and targeted pressure injury prevention.
The current executive team and Lenexa Medical co-founders, Ajit Ravindran (Chief Executive Officer) and Will Yang (Chief Scientific Officer), met at the Biodesign Innovation program at The University of Melbourne, where MBA and Master of Biomedical Engineering students are brought together to solve an unmet need in the healthcare market.
During the Biodesign Innovation course, the two entrepreneurs shadowed doctors, specialists and nurses for several months to learn and discover challenges that clinicians face day-to-day. “It was when an anaesthetist explained he would like to be able to see pressure underneath the patient while on the operating table, that we began to see where we could make a difference,” Mr Yang said.
Averting a potentially fatal complication
This led them to develop a product that is positioned under the patient and uses sensors to give specialists the ability to ‘see’ beneath the patient and proactively prevent pressure injuries.
“A six-hour surgery can become 10 hours. A pressure injury could be developing that manifests only in recovery, ICU or when the patient is leaving,” Mr Yang said.
Their product has evolved into a solution that can be used in ICU, aged care and long-stay wards. The LenexaCARE sensor-sheet is fitted onto a mattress where sensor data creates an image of a patient lying to analyse their positions and timings. Freed from the constant vigilance required to detect emerging PIs, carers can use their energy and time more effectively, resulting in improved standards of care. Lenexa Medical is currently also using its technology to evaluate other patient monitoring capability such as falls, heart rate and breathing rate applications.
Granting a significant helping hand
The injection of $812,500 in matched, non-dilutionary funding from the Entrepreneurs’ Programme Accelerating Commercialisation service allowed Lenexa Medical to create a prototype, facilitate a set of clinical trials, preceding regulatory approval and launch in Australia. Lenexa Medical also recently announced New Zealand approval of their product, with FDA approval next in line.
Mr Ravindran described the Entrepreneurs’ Programme Accelerating Commercialisation service as “a real business gift to us”. Even the work required to complete the application process generated unexpected benefits.
“It helped us refine our story, and to create a professional language and format that gave us real credibility in front of investors, medical partners and the market generally,” he said.
He advised start-ups participating in the Entrepreneurs’ Programme Accelerating Commercialisation service to place their trust in the program’s advisors and facilitators. “The i4 Connect facilitators we worked with were amazing. We thought they were being hard on us, but it was their pushing that got us over the line and into a funded status,” Mr Ravindran said.
“Our facilitators helped us meet all our milestones, survive COVID and opened strategic and expert doors for us. They constantly came up with innovative solutions to help us, and created valuable links to influential contacts and financial decision-makers. They were always fighting on our side.”
With passion and innovation underpinned by sound strategic advice, Lenexa Medical appears set for a meteoric rise in the medical technology industry, saving patients’ lives as they go.