Patient handling is tough market for newcomers

EMS and patient handling in the United States is very competitive field, and it can be an expensive business undertaking

By Dan White

Introducing a new line of stretcher in the U.S. anymore is a very hard thing to do. This EMS environment is the ultimate challenge for all patient handling equipment, with the story of the Monster Medic being a prime example.

A few weeks ago, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that a receiver will sell off the assets of the "debt-burdened and now-shuttered Mukwonago company." The action is the latest step for a four-year-old firm that also has seen accusations of patent infringement and poor performance of its equipment, according to the report.

It was the latest in the saga of the Monster Medic Cot, and their ambitious plan to become a competitive player in the patient handling market, which I covered in 2008 when they first introduced their power cot.

For many years in the USA there were only Ferno cots. Then along came Stryker and a whole new level of sophistication in patient handling equipment resulting from intense market competition.

Today Ferno is clearly responding with intensely competitive new models. With Monster Medic gone there are few other patient handling manufacturers. There are a few smaller specialty companies.

One is the TechLift, Inc., LitLift SCBA Powered Cot. And an Italian company called Spencer is also now poised to have a go at the USA market. I recently saw one person using a Spencer manual cot take a 250+ pound man out of an ambulance unassisted.

There are certain barriers to success, like how well it holds up under our demanding use, and when it does break (and it will), who will fix it. The proper maintenance of ambulance stretchers is very challenging. Fortunately companies like EMSAR, Ferno’s authorized service provider, today offer comprehensive service packages tailored to an agency's individual needs.

It is simply amazing what an EMT can do to a stretcher on a bad day. It does not help that many of their patients are getting simply huge.

Building specialized patient equipment to handle the obese like the TranSafe Bariatric Ramp & Winch System, has also become a burgeoning business. There are also many new options in transfer devices, including the Stryker Speedheet and the T.H.E. SallySlide.

EMS and patient handling in the United States is very competitive field, and it can be an expensive business undertaking. Reports of Monster Medic's $4 million in debt is sure proof of that.

Monster Medic’s Owner Jamie Reed literally grew up serving EMS providers. Jamie was the former owner of EMP, the EMS supply company he built up from his father Ron Reed's smaller regional EMS product distributing company.

I remember setting them up with Pacific Emergency bags in the 1980’s when Jamie was pretty young. He took over the family company and forged it into a national EMS product distributing power house, which he then sold.

The new owners saw how well it served the patient and EMS provider, and apparently decided not try to fix it too much. That's a pretty high compliment to what Jamie built and the people who helped him do it, some of whom are still there.

He popped back up in 2008 with a revolutionary new stretcher that would even weigh the patient. Many of us were reluctant to underestimate him. Even with the crazy expensive booth introducing the new Monster Medic power cot, the slick marketing campaign, advertising, the high-powered website and sales talent, we thought maybe it isn't as crazy as it looks. Maybe Jamie really can do it.

It turns out he couldn't.

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