Research at the bedside has a literal meaning with Able Innovations, a Canadian robotics company focused on patient transfer technology. Last month, Ottawa’s Bruyère Hospital announced the procurement of Able Innovations’ ALTA Platform™, a robotic patient transfer device akin to a hospital bed, for its complex care units.
Frontline healthcare staff perform hundreds of lateral transfers each year, moving a patient or resident from one surface to another when bringing them between units or appointments, to facilitate bathing, or changing bedding. Patient transfers require multiple staff members for physical support and safety, and despite being a routine task, staff risk injury to themselves and transfers can be uncomfortable for patients.
Jayiesh Singh, CEO of Able Innovations, saw the struggle first-hand. His mother worked in long-term care, and while he volunteered there, he realized how physically demanding and resource-intensive lifts and transfers could be. Along with co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, Philip Chang, he seized the opportunity to build change from the ground up with his idea for a robotic transfer platform that would give both staff and patients a better experience.
The work began in 2019 when Singh approached Bruce Wallace, Executive Director of the AGE-WELL SAM3 National Innovation Hub, Adjunct Research Professor at Carleton University, and investigator with the Bruyère Research Institute, whose work specializes in sensors and smart technology to support aging. Their first research study, funded by AGE-WELL, looked at how their new transfer method might reduce the risk of injury and discomfort for patients, successfully finding factors that contribute to bruising, contusions, skin tears, and abrasions, were all significantly reduced compared to existing transfer methods.
“The success of this project has hinged on the continued transparent feedback we’ve had from clinical staff, patients, and researchers,” said Singh. “We had insights into the nuances of the problem very early on in the process, which has been a critical part of ensuring our designs are practical and easy to use.”
Consultations and research turned into prototype development and soon after, a full-scale platform was launched, leveraging an automated sliding platform to move a patient from bed to ALTA, and back again with the push of a button.
“AGE-WELL is proud to have funded this ground-breaking work from the very start, from research and early testing through to implementation,” said Alex Mihailidis, Scientific Director and CEO of AGE-WELL. “As Canada’s technology and aging network, AGE-WELL’s investment across the research and innovation pipeline is paying dividends in products like this one that addresses real-world challenges and benefits Canadians.”
Able Innovations began to pursue their commercialization journey with support from OBIO®, preparing them for early-stage fundraising, business development, and building their workforce. Through funding and advisory support from OBIO’s Early Adopter Health Network (EAHN™), and with additional funding through AGE-WELL’s AgeTech Implementation Response program, Able Innovations found its way back to Bruyère to be evaluated for procurement.
In the summer of 2022, the commercial-ready ALTA Platform was brought to Bruyère’s complex care units where it was compared against current transfer methods and assessed on its ability to make patient transfers effortless, less time-consuming, safer, and more dignified for both staff and patients. Throughout the project, real-time feedback has allowed Able Innovations to modify and improve the device’s functionality to meet the specific needs of the hospital and patient population.
“We are excited to help accelerate the deployment and adoption of Able Innovations’ technology,” said Maura Campbell, President and CEO of OBIO®. “This evaluation project is a great example of how Canadian innovations can move to procurement and be adopted by Canadian healthcare organizations. It shows that there is a tangible and meaningful impact on clinical teams by reducing physical strain and wait times.”
“From the first prototype, we knew this technology could be transforming care at Bruyère,” said Paula Doering, Senior Vice President of Clinical Programs, Chief Nursing Executive and Allied Health Professionals at Bruyère. “This project has shown how important collaboration across our organizations is in order to tackle the challenges our front line is facing and improve how we care for the people we serve.”
The ALTA Platform becomes a permanent part of care at Bruyère this month.