Making It In Northern Michigan: Padded stirrup covers gain traction
Not every new invention has to be complicated.
Based on everyday experience, Boise, Idaho-based urologist Dr. Autumn Bridger identified a simple but persistent problem at her practice: Her patients found exams and medical procedures uncomfortable.
In particular, they found cold, metal foot stirrups unwelcoming, which some doctors go so far as to cover with a sock or even an oven mitt.
Over dinner one night in 2016, Bridger happened to mention the problem to her Traverse City friend, Brittany Luea, who is an architect by training.
“Brittany and I understood, as women, that when your feet are in the stirrups, you’re in a precarious position. You feel vulnerable,” Bridger said.
The business partners decided what was needed was a stirrup cover that would be soft, slip resistant and easily cleaned. Their company, ComenityMED, was born. If you’re wondering about the name, it’s something Luea cooked up by combining the words “comfort” and “amenity.”
Luea pursued what amounted to a crash course in materials science. She worked with the Penn State Innovation Commons, then with Thingsmiths, a 3D printing/scanning, CAD design, prototyping and manufacturing company in Ann Arbor. After numerous trials, Luea came up with a promising prototype. Meanwhile, Bridger got positive feedback from patients.
“The launch went well,” Luea said. “We got a lot of exposure to physicians and other people in the field. That’s helped with networking.”
It is the first all-silicone medical exam table stirrup cover that comfortably and ergonomically cradles the foot. The covers attach securely to exam stirrups by means of stretch attachment and can be cleaned by chemical or heat sterilization, which is particularly important during the Covid pandemic.
“We’re at an interesting point with the company,” Luea said. “We’ve been back and forth with the patent office for a few years. It’s not official, but most likely the patent will come within the next few weeks. So, the question now is how do we grow and what’s our next step.”
Bridger and Luea are always open to new products that serve doctors’ needs and provide comfort to patients. The padded stirrup covers and any other new products the company brings to market in the future, Bridger said, are a way for healthcare providers “to show they care.”
Clearly, the two friends and business partners think they’re onto something because the medical community seems to paying more attention to patient comfort.
“Medicine focused for many years on utility,” Bridger said. “Generally, we rely on the tried and true. Patient comfort has often been sacrificed. But it’s important. We need to consider different ways of thinking. We’re just starting to scratch the surface on making high-tech comfortable.”