A Montreal start-up is changing the way drugs are administered to sick children with the creation of a smart bracelet that automates the process.
NURA Medical’s invention, the IV Assistant, is a bracelet with a retractable tape measure that accurately predicts a patient’s weight given their arm size and sends it to a companion web app which the company developed for use on a tablet.
The founders, Sofia Addab, Jean-Gabriel Lacombe, and Georgia Powell, are McGill Graduate students and met while studying in the university’s Experimental Surgery Master’s program. NURA Medical was launched in June 2020 during a shared internship at the Montreal Children’s Hospital
“We were all students in that surgical innovation stream, which is really about bringing clinical innovation into the hospital. And during this, we were all assigned to the pediatric emergency medicine team, where we spent months shadowing our medical mentor…And really our role here was just to observe healthcare professionals in the department and identify various pain points that they experienced in their daily workflow,” Powell said.
The trio soon realized that medication preparation in the emergency department was a time-sensitive process. In addition, during trauma, the emergency room can get very loud and chaotic, and puts a huge cognitive load on nurses and physicians who are trying to administer the right dose at such a critical point in care to patients, she added.
Adult medications come in standard doses, but pediatric medications are prescribed according to weight, which means an eight kilogram child will receive a different dose than a child who weighs 10 kilograms. The manual dosage calculation of IV medication was not only creating a critical bottleneck in clinical workflow but could also pose a risk to children’s safety.
Powell said due to the busy medical environment, physicians don’t have the time or the means to use a scale. Because of this physicians will end up often guessing the child’s weight based on age or height or combination of the two.
“The lightbulb went on and we saw an opportunity to provide healthcare professionals with a solution. And then after the shadowing was complete, as a team, we all put our heads together and brainstormed various ways we could provide a solution for healthcare professionals.”
The IV Assistant is a two part device: The first part of it automatically provides an accurate weight of the patient based on arm circumference and the second part is an application that pairs with the smart bracelet.
When using the device, a nurse signs into the app, selects the drug requested by the treating emergency doctor, and NURA Medical’s software will automatically determine the correct dose based on weight of the patient. The software will also walk hospital staff precisely through each step of IV medication preparation.
NURA Medical was supported by Mitacs, a not-for-profit organization that fosters growth and innovation in Canada by solving business challenges with solutions from academic institutions. They were supported through the Mitacs Accelerate Entrepreneur fund with C$45,0000 of research funding
“NURA is a really nice example of connecting dots between multiple different realities,” said Jesse Vincent-Herscovici, vice president business development of Mitacs. “You have this really nice blending of clinical reality…and the business aspect. And then you have the technical aspect, which is the actual device, which was a really nice mix of relatively simple mechanics but also very high tech AI in order to turn those measurements into personalized medicine.”
Vincent-Herscovici said NURA medical’s entrepreneurial and innovation qualities made the decision to support it a “no brainer.” In addition, he said NURA Medical’s innovation will help enhance Canada’s already growing medical device industry.
While the IV Assistant creates a solution for busy hospital environments, Powell said a device like this may also be a solution for rural communities that lack experienced physicians who are comfortable treating pediatric patients.
“If a pediatric patient comes into a rural centre, they will typically call down to one of the leading centres for pediatrics across Canada [such as] Montreal Children’s Hospital, or Sick Kids in Ontario, and will ask for physician opinion on their case. So we hope that our tool in these circumstances would be available in rural communities where they don’t have the pediatric expertise so they can rely on it,” she said.
The trio is currently working to refine and test their technology and expects to have a prototype ready for regulatory approval as a class II medical device in the next few years.