The financial crisis of the past few years has taken a toll on many US companies, but that hasn’t been the case for Tekscan. The Boston-based developer of tactile pressure measurement systems and software crossed the 100-employee mark in 2012. It can also claim a 10% growth in the sales of medical biomechanical products in the past year.
That success has allowed Tekscan to put as much as 15% of its revenues back into research and development, according to Peter Gantchev, the company’s medical product manager. “We are constantly trying to stay ahead of the competition and get into some new markets,” he explained.
One of those markets is clinical medicine—the company has set its sights on making serious inroads with lower extremity practitioners. The plan is to make two of its most popular products—the MobileMat system and the F-Scan In-Shoe Analysis System—more user-friendly for the busy clinician.
Both of these products offer plenty of interesting biomechanical data, particularly for research purposes (Gantchev estimated half of Tekscan’s medical clients are research facilities). But clinicians need more specific information they can apply to their patients in real time.
“We were at the World Congress of Podiatry in Rome this year, and those podiatrists are so busy. They aren’t always looking for the detailed dataset that a researcher would be interested in. They need to know how to apply the data to their patients almost immediately,” Gantchev said. “If that’s the market that we want to go after, we have to fit into their practice with a protocol-driven product.”
To that end, the company will roll out new software for the computerized MobileMat at the end of 2013. The mat currently can be paired with software for the Balance Error Scoring System (BESS), a test of static postural stability. The company is working on a number of new software packages for use with the mat, including one to test sway and balance.
This software will assess the slight postural movements individuals make to maintain a balanced position (sway) and their ability to maintain or restore the equilibrium state of upright stance, without having to change the base of support (balance), Gantchev explained.
“The BESS test is ideal for assessing balance in concussed athletes because it’s basically counting the errors, or deviations, from the athlete’s normal stance. But that’s not necessarily appropriate for a fall risk assessment [in a nonathlete],” Gantchev explained. “We’re developing the sway and balance software for fall and injury risk assessment.”
The patient would stand on the MobileMat while the practitioner evaluates center of force (COF), the point at which all ground reaction forces acting on the bottom of the foot are concentrated.
“Basically, how is the patient trying to remain stable? If that COF exceeds certain limits, that data could be interpreted for a fall risk assessment,” he said.
Meanwhile, the F-Scan system features new software options, including automated analyses of peak pressure and foot function that generate reports clinicians can use to assess patient performance before and after treatment. The in-shoe analysis system has already proven popular with clinicians who study and treat the diabetic foot.
In addition to the information the F-Scan results offer—bipedal plantar pressure and forces during stance and gait—Gantchev stressed that the system can help clinicians with two major challenges in healthcare today: patient compliance and efficient practice throughput.
“The immediate feedback from the F-Scan benefits the patient as much as the clinician,” he said. “Clinical information can sometimes be too abstract for patients, so seeing how the corrective action [of the orthoses] can benefit them will go a long way toward compliance.”
The immediate feedback also could reduce the need for additional appointments to adjust the orthoses or, more seriously, to treat reoccurring conditions because the patient has stopped using the orthoses or is using them incorrectly.
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), clinicians could be treating a much patient larger patient pool; being able to properly fit and adjust orthoses during one appointment would free them up to see more patients in a day, Gantchev said.
Finally, the F-Scan results can help track and document the patient’s progress over time.
“With the ACA, there’s going to be a call for documentation to justify the course of care,” Gantchev said. “Data from the F-Scan has information clinicians need to show how they designed and implemented that course of care.”
Tekscan offers in-person and online training for its products, but the company aims to make the training more “plug and play” to help clinicians maximize their limited time.
“That’s really our focus for 2014: To make our software so easy that it requires very little extra time on the part of the clinicians to learn to use and to integrate our products into their practices,” Gantchev said.
Shalmali Pal is freelance medical editor and writer in Tucson, AZ.