Summit Medical based in Utah, designs and manufactures portable electronic infusion pumps, one of which changed the life of a late-stage pancreatic cancer patient, Verne Smith. The ambIT pump enabled him to transition from a bed-ridden state to increased comfort and mobility. After Verne Smith contacted the company to thank them for this qualify of life changing product, Summit Medical decided to feature his story to highlight how the technology can assist others with similar treatment requirements.
Summit Medical is very focused on providing treatments for pain management that are cost effective (single hospital list price of a pump is ~$695) and focused on the user’s experience (must be simple to use with low likelihood of errors). Medgadget recently had an opportunity to chat with Summit Medical CEO, LeVoy Haight, to discuss the company’s line of portable infusion pumps.
Janelle Chang, Medgadget: Please describe the ambIT pain pump, its function, and operation.
LeVoy Haight, Summit Medical: The pump consists of two parts – the electronic part and the sterile pumping mechanism. It weighs less than half a pound and has two buttons making it very easy for a patient to use. One button starts/stops the infusion and the second button allows the patient to self-administer an additional dose if approved by the physician.
Medgadget: What are the key differences across the pump configurations available?
Haight: The main difference across the configurations is that they are tailored for specific therapies, for example pain management versus antibody therapy, and this allows [Summit Medical] to manufacture the pump at a low cost. Secondly it helps when administering a therapy because a nurse or physician can look at the pump and easily identify what it is intended for compared to pumps that can administer medications for a variety of different treatments. This also helps to cut down on mistakes.
Medgadget: What are some of the advantages of the ambIT pump over others on the market?
Haight: Size and Weight – weighs less than an iPad [and measures 6.85 inches tall and 2.15 inches wide]. Patients are either sick or coming out of surgery and don’t have a lot of strength. So if they’re going to carry something around 24 hours a day, half a pound starts to make a difference because you’re carrying the device along with any fluid medication you have to take. The simple black carrying pouch to be worn around the waist is also unobtrusive and doesn’t draw attention to the fact that a person is wearing / carrying a medical device.
Medgadget: What types of medications is the pump limited to, if any?
Haight: The only medications we restrict it from are life-sustaining medications because we do not have a back- up battery system in the pump, a decision which was driven by the added weight and cost that would have to be added. Also we do not recommend using the pump with highly viscous fluids e.g. blood or blood products as those generally require special pumps.
Medgadget: Is there any risk of overdosing?
Haight: The greatest risk of overdosing for pumps is when you have a situation when fluid can flow freely into the patient. We’ve designed it so that if you put down the disposable portion on the pump, it engages with 3 different rollers, two of which at any given time are compressing the outflow tube to prevent any flow of fluid unless the pump is turned on. The second thing that affects over infusion is software. Software is very important to the FDA and medical community. Software robustness is critical so that when someone puts a program in the pump, the software executes exactly what is required. Our software has been heavily tested, used over a million times, and has been on the market in its current design for over 10 years without any complaints specific to software issues.
Medgadget: In an earlier email with Medgadget, it was highlighted that the pump cost is 80-90% less than standard pumps. How was Summit Medical able to achieve such a significant cost reductions?
Haight: Without compromising any safety requirements and standards, we designed the individual pumps for very specific therapies e.g. pain management, chemotherapy, antibody therapy and did not focus on life-sustaining medication administration, which requires an extra battery. In discussions with doctors and nurses, they identified the absolute key functions they needed each pump to do. Also, we designed the pump for use at home instead of a hospital setting. The cost-advantage there is that by designing a pump for the home, the hardware and software requirements to communicate with other systems are not needed. At the hospital, physicians and nurses want the pump to be able to communicate with other systems in the hospital.
Medgadget: What is the useful life of the pump?
Haight: We have seen pumps last between 2 to 7 years depending on the care and nature of use similar to a typical electronic device.
Medgadget: How did Summit Medical partner with the military to use this product?
Haight: The military had a program in which they were looking for a pump to transport their patients from abroad where they were wounded, back to the US. They were using pumps 3-4 times the cost of one of Summit Medical’s pumps. Shipping the larger, more expensive pumps back and forth to the US was a major concern. They wound up buying more pumps because of the transportation logistics. When they looked at Summit Medical’s pump they discovered that it could go anywhere, was extremely low cost, easy to use, could administer different treatments, and light weight. They tested it for environmental considerations – pressure, temperature, vibration etc. and found it passed the requirements.
Medgadget: Are there limitations to the pumps on the current pipeline or what new features are you looking to incorporate?
Haight: We have two pumps in development. One is focused on telemedicine (communication between the device and the physician), which aims to allow a physician to get a daily report on the usage of the device for example. The second pump is looking to improve the user-experience with pumps in the hospital by identifying how the pumps are actually used and what makes them so difficult to use. The goal would be to make a pump for physicians and nurses that fits in with their work flow rather than disrupts their workflow. Both development projects must find solutions that are highly cost-effective.
Medgadget: What are the top objectives for Summit Medical this year?
Haight: We’d love to release both new concepts we’re working on but most likely we’ll get one released and it will be a lower cost product to ones we have on the market because we found opportunities to take more cost out of the product. Since it was designed over 10 years ago and technology has improved, lower cost components can be sourced. We’re also looking at identifying more ways in which we can effectively help to manage pain for patients.