As we’ve been covering over the past few years, tablets are increasingly permeating the health care environment. More and more medical students are receiving iPads as part of their tuition and some hospitalists are bringing their Surface tablets to work. In this milieu it’s no surprise that there’s been a proliferation of peripherals such as carrying cases for tablets.
Dr. Paul Webber is an emergency physician in Santa Barbara who has developed his own, unique peripheral device called the BakBone. We first learned about it at CES in Vegas earlier this month, and only recently had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Webber about the device and its use cases.
Shiv Gaglani, Medgadget: What inspired you to create BakBone?
Dr. Paul Webber: A few years ago, my hospital updated their electronic health record (EHRs) and I was on a team of clinicians who designed the order-sets templates. Our goal was not only to facilitate computerized chart entries but also to mobilize this ability to the patient’s bedside. Our first efforts weren’t so elegant: we mounted entire computers — keyboard, CPU, monitor, and all — onto wheeled carts. These proved cumbersome as patient rooms are usually quite small. The doctors and nurses also seemed more involved with the computers than with the patients as the older EHRs were difficult to navigate.
About this same time, my children received a first generation iPad from their grandmother. After of day of depriving my children of their gift, it didn’t take long for me to recognize that tablet computers — small, powerful, and designed for mobility — were the answer for mobile bedside computing. They were, however, quite difficult to hold, let alone after repeatedly washing hands with lubricated soaps and hand sanitizers between patients. The accessories that incorporated Velcro straps, vinyl sleeves, or seamed cases harbor pathogens and hence weren’t even an option in the medical arena.
Medgadget: How did you go from idea to implementation?
Dr. Webber: The idea for the BakBone evolved in the following months. After searching the internet for an easily sanitized tablet holder and finding none, I started designing a tablet ring: something simple, intuitive, easily cleaned, ergonomic, and removable. Some very creative, resourceful family members and friends joined the fray and helped improve my original design. We fashioned a prototype using relatively new 3D printing technology, and continued to redesign until we felt we had our opus. Injectable mold cavities were then fabricated to mass produce the current rendition of the BakBone in Los Angeles.
Medgadget: Who exactly is BakBone meant for? Since you’re an emergency medicine physician is it optimized for that group?
Dr. Webber: As the BakBone is the only easily sanitized tablet holder in the market, we believed medical environments — hospitals, clinics, home health care, pharmaceutical reps, EMS — and some engineering applications using ‘clean-rooms’ were our targets. However, after soft-launching with a prototype a year ago at the massive Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, we found ourselves overwhelmed with interest from fields as diverse as banks, airlines, education, realty, and law enforcement. It wasn’t the ability to clean the tablet ring but rather its intuitive design that everyone appreciated.
Anyone using a tablet experienced a similar problem: they need something simple, ergonomic, and durable to mobilize tablets, not convert them into laptops. The BakBone’s design combined with our ability to personalize them by adding a crisp logo atop the ring portion or by changing the color made these immensely popular with schools, corporations, sports teams, really everyone.
Medgadget: Is your company planning on creating any other products?
Dr. Webber: At this point, just more BakBones but in different sizes, colors and with corporate brands or logos. The finger hole on the current model is based on my finger size. We are seeking funding to create new injection molds as numerous customers have requested a ‘Tiffany’ size for women and/or children and a ‘Kong’ size for those larger burly types like our CFO and CIO. Recently, a few companies who specialize in tablet mounts have asked to adapt the BakBone to their static equipment to offer customers the option of desktop or mobile use. We are excited to see where such a partnership would go.
Medgadget: Do you have advice for other physician entrepreneurs?
Dr. Webber: Entrepreneurship, just like Medicine, has it’s own vernacular. Listen, study, and learn the language. Find those who’ve successfully avoided the innumerable land mines in scaling up a small business and rely on their insight, just as you would if they were a medical consultant in a critically ill patient. It’s an exceptional person who could successfully manage this all on their own.
Product page: BakBone…