Medical device startup aims to limit tube tangles

In an intensive care unit, every move can mean life or death for a patient. 

Every time doctors and nurses transport patients, they risk a life. Even the smallest of complications — a tube getting stuck, for example — can bring their world crashing down.

For Milwaukee-based nurse Lindsey Roddy, that reality came true one day on the job. The tube carrying her patient’s life support line got caught and wrenched out of the neck, a near-death experience.

But the same heart-wrench that shook Roddy that day motivated her to create a solution: RoddyMedical LLC; and SecureMove-TLC, a device that organizes medical tubing and cords to prevent them from getting caught and pulled in fast-paced ICU environments. 

Roddy’s startup made it into the final 25 in the 2021 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest, which can introduce young companies to investors, funding opportunities and mentorship help. 

RoddyMedical entered the competition last year, and in 2019 as well, but as Roddy says, company officials “didn’t quite have their ducks in a row.” Now, the three professionals that make up the RoddyMedical team have a variety of experiences and backgrounds in engineering, manufacturing and more. 

“We have a pretty clear plan as to what we need to do to get this into sales and to get revenue. So far so good. Because we’ve been working on this material, we’ve been honing it in and planning and planning and so it wasn’t too bad this year,” Roddy said. “Last year, we just didn’t have everything put together yet, so there were some things that we couldn’t answer that now we can.”

Roddy said the transition from nursing to business wasn’t exactly straightforward, but once she started talking with other nurses about their experiences with patients’ tubing getting caught — something more common than she had expected — she knew her team engineered a solution. 

“Twenty-three percent of those we talked to had witnessed a potentially life-threatening safety event because of an issue like that, where a patient was moving and the life support line got pulled out and life support was interrupted, leading to extensive bleeding. Also, people trip over these things,” Roddy said. “A total of seven deaths that were reported in all of our customer discovery interviews.”

Her business partner Kyle Jansson, who handles the engineering side of things, joined her early on. Pat Deno, who handles operations, marketing and manufacturing, joined the team later. Along with a group of consultants, RoddyMedical has gotten the project off the ground and has executed two seed investment rounds. The team hopes to get through FDA regulations and start selling the device to hospitals and other companies this summer. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has uprooted health systems in unprecedented ways. But Roddy said aside from working remotely, the pandemic hasn’t thrown as much of a damper on the company’s efforts. The biggest challenge the pandemic brought, she said, was not being able to pitch the device in-person, as hospitals aren’t accepting walk-ins. 

“I’m a nurse; I have connections and I have most of the prerequisites to go into hospitals. But if you’re not an employee, and you’re like a sales rep, you can’t just walk in anymore,” Roddy said.

Briefly, Roddy said the company dabbled in producing N95-like masks. But the regulatory process for getting them distributed to people would have been long, costly and more challenging than rewarding, so they moved on to other things. 

“COVID-19 didn’t really slow us down. Actually, we’ve been able to continually make progress. We’ll have to see how things go,” Roddy said. “I mean I think that might be challenging sales that we’re anticipating, but so much can be done virtually and we do have a lot of personal connections into different health systems and so hopefully that will make the difference.”

-By Mary Magnuson

Magnuson is a graduating student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.