When Kevin MacDonald saw how much time his wife, a physician, devoted to checking expiration dates on pharmacy kits, he decided to do something about it.
The former technical architect at Sun Microsystems spent the next several years devising a solution. He recruited engineer Tim Kress-Spatz to help him invent a new system to track and process pharmacy kits in hospitals.
The pair believe they are ready to turn their invention into a commercial product and sell it to hospitals. Investors agree; their company, Kit Check, today closed a $10.4 million first round of funding, which is sizable for a health care startup.
The trick is a smart use of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags.
Both the founders are experts in manipulating RFID and were able to bypass a potential hurdle: pharmacy kits are filled with liquid vials, which can interfere with radio frequency.
MacDonald doesn’t go into the specifics of how they were able to accomplish this feat — it’s one of the reasons they are unique and competitors won’t flood the the space. At this early stage, they even have a patent pending on the technology.
Another unique aspect of Kit Check’s solution is that the data from the RFID tags is stored in a cloud-based system, so technicians can track each pharmacy kit from a laptop or smartphone device. When equipment or medications are used, pharmacists are notified within seconds, and will immediately restock the kits.
Kit Check is already working with seven hospitals and expects to implement its technology in nine more within the next month.
MacDonald told me he was initially able to get the first hospitals on board by “cold calling.” The technology worked; so news has spread to other hospitals by word of mouth.
It’s an easy enough sell to hospitals, given that almost every ward has a pharmacy kit. The kits are highly accessible to the physicians and nurses, who often use them in emergency situations.
For hospital pharmacists and doctors, the kits are a nightmare to restock. Each kit contains up to 200 items, and staff are tasked with replenishing them and routinely checking if drugs have passed their expiration date.
Despite their best efforts, thousands of patients typically receive out-of-date medication, which puts their lives at risk. A hospital technician or pharmacist may also forget to restock potentially life-saving equipment, such as a Code Tray, which is used to treat patients experiencing full cardiac arrest.
“At medium-sized hospitals, we typically see about 20 or 40 of these types of problems with pharmacy kits each year,” MacDonald told me.
The team says it had been bootstrapped until now. However, it did enroll in San Francisco-based health accelerator Rock Health, which doles out $100,000 in funding.
The round was led by New Leaf Venture Partners, with participation from Sands Capital Ventures, Easton Capital Investment Group, and LionBird.