Kevin Klipfel Featured in Safe Patient Handling Magazine
Article below features Kevin Klipfel, Vice President of Business Development for Prism Medical and originally appeared in the September Issue of The American Journal of Safe Patient Handling & Mobility.
Heather Monaghan (HM): How and when did you first get involved in safe patient handling and mobility (SPHM)?
Kevin Klipfel (KK): I’ve been in the SPHM field for 18 years. I was one of the very first US distributors for Prism Medical back in 1997. My distribution company had Prism Medical products and at the time was referred to as Waverley Glen as well. We sold into both acute care and home care markets. My personal interest in the products developed from the combination of its technical/construction nature as well as its clinical application. Prior to SPH, I worked 16 years in the acute care patient monitoring business, so acute care has always been my space. In 2000, I become a direct employee of Prism Medical, currently as VP of Business Development, I manage our hospital division.
With my years of experience in dealing with hospitals, nurses, the staff, dealers, distributors, project managers, general contractors, and most importantly the end user, I am certainly able to recognize a good product from a bad product. My focus has always been on the end user and the staff, and the benefits the products offer them. It’s great to work for a company like Prism Medical so I am able to see those benefits.
HM: Can you tell me more about the technology that Prism Medical produces?
KK: We design, engineer, and manufacture a full complement of SPHM products, including ceiling lifts, floor lifts, slings, and repositioning aids. We do all this out of our state-of-the-art plants in St. Louis and Toronto. I always mention it’s homegrown technology – all based on our generations of lifts, improvements, and enhancements. I think that’s important. As you look through product history, we look at any failures and focus on how we can design a product that will eliminate them, thus continue to maintain our exceptional product uptime record. It’s especially rewarding when you know where you’ve been and where you’re going in terms of product design and reliability.
In terms of overhead track lifts, we sell more than any other manufacturer in North America, mainly because that is our focus. We are specialists in the SPHM arena, with the overhead track lift being the platform of the product mix; floor lifts are the peripheral products (how do you pick up a fallen patient in the lobby?), and then the soft goods blend it all together. That, coupled with superior training, will be a winning combination.
HM: How have you seen SPHM technology evolve over the years?
KK: We are one of the pioneers of the ceiling lifts. The last 30 years we have many innovations related to the ceiling track, specifically in lowering the cost and increasing the feature offerings. That has been the evolution: making it for less and giving the clients more.
Regarding floor lifts, which are an older and more mature product group, we have some improvements, for example aluminum base frames and more ergonomically friendly upgrades. But then, it still occupies those 16 square feet of space, and it’s always “where is it when I need it”. It will always have those challenges, so that’s why in a perfect world, it’s a peripheral product versus a platform for your program.
Interesting enough, technology has grown the SPHM market, and at the same time I am still able to develop basic SPHM programs with soft goods, meaning nonfriction sheet family of products, and evolve that program as money is available. I think that is important as new mandates for zero lift states expand, requiring formal SPHM programs to be in place. Although many facilities have been given timely notice, some are not prepared for it financially. In summary, with proper clinical training along with SPH soft good products, a program can be designed to meet legislative mandates and develop immediate ROIs.
Product evolution is directly related to product awareness. Back in 1997, nobody knew what a ceiling lift was. You could present to the facility, but full adoption took many years. Now ceiling tracks are virtually specked into all construction renovations. I think this, in part, is a result of the work magazines like the American Journal of SPHM do by showing evidence of the products and a solid ROI. It created awareness, expanded, and developed us into the SPHM market we have today.
HM: What influences Prism Medical to develop new technologies?
KK: Customer requests drive a majority of changes to help improve products. Also, as new technology becomes available, it enables us to develop smarter, more cost effective technology platforms that can be programmed in small packaging for the overhead track lift. What we develop for our North American customer is completely based on what they are asking for, not any assumptions; it’s quite simple.
HM: What is your most recent development?
KK: We are introducing a new feature to the ceiling lift market that is related to our smart motor technology. We haven’t officially announced it yet, so I cannot go into too much detail. We are excited for our customers. It will offer them more data and communications reporting options. This will be powerful. Our model is always we don’t want to be “me too”, so these features will be a step beyond what is available today.
HM: What do you think clients are currently looking for with SPHM technologies?
KK: Most customers want reliability and good pricing. As the market continues to mature, we expect the premium features to become more of a demand as the customers become more comfortable using the equipment. We’re also geared toward client support and have 24-hour call options. In my opinion, you should assume high quality. There should never be a lower level of quality. Most of our customers understand the adoption of SPHM equipment is dependent upon changing behavior or the use of the products and, therefore, the simpler the better. We make things easy, simple, and affordable while including high-end features the customers will begin to expect as they become more familiar with using our products.
HM: What steps do you take to ensure your products do what they say they do in this very evidence-based, practice-driven industry?
KK: Prism Medical doesn’t shortcut in any way; it’s very commendable. We have a full staff of quality or regulatory professionals that work closely with their engineering and manufacturing team to ensure that all products perform as specified. We are currently to the highest levels of all required and voluntary standards. There are a lot of voluntary standards of good manufacturing practice that are self-imposed and that we do. Some of those include UL 3rd Edition, TUV, CSA, ISO14385, and of course our overhead track lift guide, the EN10535, which is an adaptation of the standard from Europe. Prism Medical has a dedicated clinical training staff that works with our customers to design and implement SPHM programs, all of which include reporting components. I refer to this as advanced clinical support, which is an important component for a company like Prism Medical to have.
HM: What do you, as someone who has been in this industry for so many years, want to see happen in the future for SPHM?
KK: I think it is legislation driven. Everyone knows SPHM works; we just need to get the inertia of the customer base to move into an adaption mode from a trail mode. I think it’s a combination of federal and state laws. Unions also need to continue to adopt “no lift” and help to engage all employers. I think all areas are evolving. I would also like to see more requests for training. We’re very good at helping work environments integrate equipment into their best practice principles. Our trainers are good at working with staff and encouraging them to use the equipment as policies and procedures mandate. When we have this opportunity with our customers, we definitely see better outcomes. I think more clients need to budget for advanced training as well. As facilities budget for equipment, trainings is often overlooked.
HM: What do you and other vendors need to do to help support the implementation of SPHM legislation as a group?
KK: First of all, at the facility level, we need to be easy to do business with. We need to have good products and pricing, have everything delivered and installed as the customer wants so there aren’t any obstacles. It all should be a seamless positive experience. That combined with friendly customer service and training, I think that is a recipe for a good experience, which will be a pathway for adaption. If you make it hard for a customer to buy and use the product, you know where it ends up. I would ask all vendors to maintain a high quality of support.