Jeffrey Rovell & Associates, Inc.
CathSim Training Device

Jeff says: In 1996, information technology could not have seemed less relevant to medicine for most people. By bringing together investors and virtual reality pioneers, I helped to catalyze what is today a very successful IT product.

How It Started

We started with a problem: a Becton Dickinson vascular access company based in Sandy, Utah needed to differentiate its products from its competitors. Their main product was a particularly patient-friendly catheter -- but demonstrating to nurses that it was patient-friendly without an actual patient was an impossibility. How could they allow clinical professionals to 'try' and perhaps compare one catheter to another?

If only there were a device, we thought, that could train and educate nurses as to the ease of use of this particular vascular access catheter. Such a product might also be able to train clinical professionals in vascular access without practicing on a real patient.

Finding the Technology

This was a daunting task, and though the institutional tendency was to think of the product as a pipe dream I did not. At a conference for medical information technology I met HighTechsplanations, a company specializing in the then-nascent field of medical virtual reality. They worked with "surgical simulations," utilizing an array of technologies such as 3D graphics and force-feedback -- a technology in which motors make the device physically respond to user actions.. I arranged a meeting between HTS and Becton-Dickinson. I lobbied against the tide for the HTS product, and in the end BD was very intrigued by the possibility of a device which could train nurses to do vascular access. Working closely with HTS, I helped arrange a mutually beneficial investment in a development program.

The Technology Today

Ultimately BD lost interest in the program because it seemed it seemed to be growing in expense, and because progress was not as quick as BD had hoped initially. In subsequent years, however HTS, now known as Immersion Medical, has proven that the concept was a good one. The product is known today as CathSim, and gives students and clinicians the opportunity to train with actual catheter products in a simulated environment. As one nurse put it, "CathSim is the most realistic tool for intravenous therapy that I've seen in the last thirty years of practice." The armed services use CathSim to teach soldiers and medics how to start IVs in the field.

One crucial part of the product development process is the recognition of new enabling technology. Equally crucial is a patient and forward-looking approach towards developing that technology. Though BD was not able to sustain investment over the long run, its initial commitment to the product was on the mark, and the potential benefits of the technology have been realized.