Local’s invention a paramedic back-saver
July 19, 2012
Park City local Robert Heck had an idea. With a simple concept and years of tinkering away at it as a hobby, he turned that idea into a prototype, gained a business partner and is putting that product into consumers’ hands.
EZ Lift, the new-to-market back brace for emergency responders, helps transport patients comfortably and safely and most importantly more effectively. The back brace was dubbed "EZ Lift" because of how it simplifies the process for getting patients onto gurneys so that firefighters and emergency medical technicians are less likely to develop back injuries.
"Parademics have to get their patients from the ground to the gurney," Heck said. " any trauma victim, anyone that falls in their house or anywhere, they get put on a back board and lifted from the ground up to the gurney."
Heck, an emergency medical services doctor working in Salt Lake City, said it was only through his connection at work that he realized there was a problem, that paramedics were constantly hurting themselves on the job. The EZ Lift system came to him in a moment at the gym when he was dead lifting weights, but knew he faced challenges since the longstanding backboard system EMTs and firefighters use hadn’t innovated in decades.
The idea was simple: lift patients from a higher point off the ground, making the lift easier for the EMT. The EZ Lift system includes a retractable handle so that responders will lift patients from the ground and onto a gurney.
"No one has figured out how to get patients from the ground to the gurney," Heck said. When the gurney collapses, they go down to about 12 inches. You still have to get that patient from the ground, a patient who cannot help themselves, onto the gurney."
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According to the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, one in four EMTs and fire personnel will sustain a back injury in the first four years of the job that will end their career, the largest percentage of work-related injuries in the rescue field. At any given time in the country, one in 10 EMS rescuers will be out of work from a back injury.
Heck partnered with David Robinson, a longtime Parkite experience in getting startups off the ground. With a business plan in hand and eight minutes to pitch the business, the two managed sell the Park City Angels, a local group of accredited investors, on their idea.
"Everywhere we go we ask the question, ‘Do people get hurt lifting patients?’" Robinson said. "The answer is always ‘Yes.’"
Robinson spearheaded the development for four other startups before EZ Lift, including companies in environmental sciences and another medical device businesses, but said this project felt different, that the concept was simple but needed.
Joe Backer, the lead investor on the project who helped push the funding process through in less than two weeks for EZ Lift, said it was one of the most successful pitches the group has seen to date. Quickly taking the product to market, EZ Lift was able to hire a team of sales representatives across the country and continue product development.
"It takes a clearly told story to get through our process," Backer said, "and that’s what these guys did."
But getting the company products to market was not so simple.
"It sounds like such a simple product, but developing it was very, very complex," Robinson said. "It just takes a long time to get it there. but the most common reaction from paramedics has been ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’"
Since taking the product to the frontlines with emergency responders, the business has managed to place orders in markets from New York to San Francisco. The company also performed a demo last week at Canyons Resort to train EZ Lift staff.
"I always envisioned this product being out in the field and being used, but to have people want to buy it is the different experience," Heck said. " I feel that this product will save more backs than I’ve saved patients."