You never know where inspiration, or a reality check, will strike.
For Myron Kowal, it was on a beach in Jamaica. While soaking up the sun he also was keeping tabs on world events, like the coronavirus.
“I was on vacation and I saw how this thing was spreading,” said Kowal, the owner and CEO of RCare, a Webster-based technology firm that manufactures nurse-call and personal emergency response systems in the elder care and senior living marketplace.
Though the second week of March was just beginning, Kowal understood the gravity of the coronavirus epidemic. He decided RCare would switch gears to serve health care providers in what he presumed would be an upcoming all-hands-on-deck fight against COVID-19.
His team of engineers began building the Rapid Deployment Nurse Call Kit, a portable unit that can provide up to 40 patients with wireless call buttons.
“I knew we had to see what we could do and how quickly we could do it,” he said. “We started building them before the virus had really started to blossom.”
RCare launched the product on March 18 and now the units are connected to more than 6,000 patient beds in more than a dozen facilities, from Rochester to Syracuse to Stony Brook in New York, and from Detroit to Houston to Denver in the United States.
The Rapid Deployment Nurse Call Kit includes one touchscreen server, one pendant for up to 40 patients, and four pagers. Only one wireless internet connection is required.
“Picture this: you are a patient in one of 2,000 beds in Stony Brook and you need medical help now,” Kowal said. “The only thing you have to communicate with care staff is a help button, it’s your lifeline. That button gives you a sense of safety and security, and in some circumstances it’s the only thing you’ve got.”
The screen displays incoming patient calls and includes an audible alert. Patient beds are outfitted with clip-on placards that correspond to the patient call buttons, identifying to caregivers which patients are calling.
“Because of the wireless technology, you don’t need infrastructure,” Kowal said. “The system can be set up in five minutes.”
Demand has exceeded supply. RCare was out of stock over the weekend but production resumed Monday morning. The firm employs 18 but can contract with employees of another firm, Special Care Systems, to fill needs. Special Care Systems is based in Irondequoit and owned by Kowal’s wife, Ann.
It takes about two hours to assemble one unit, Kowal said.
Past experience helped RCare with implementation. He said Rochester General Hospital called on his firm about 10 years ago to keep patients in overflow areas connected during an influenza outbreak.
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