Sitting in the oncologist’s office, LeAnn McKee received that dreaded news.
The mammogram revealed a potentially cancerous mass, requiring further testing, which eventually included a surgical biopsy.
Finally, at the end of the long and stressful process, McKee was told the mass was benign and her life was not in danger.
Now, sitting in the break room at Tech-Medical Services Inc., McKee says these memories serve as motivation at her job as the company’s account representative and director of marketing. It’s also part of the reason why she puts emphasis on the distribution of the new Dilon Molecular Breast Imaging technology.
McKee has teamed with Paulett Anderson, Tech-Medical’s president and CEO, for that mission. Together, the medical equipment they design and distribute combines a job and a passion.
Tech-Medical’s mission, Anderson said, is to provide medical facilities with affordable and efficient products that contribute to effective patient care.
Anderson’s husband, Ken, started Tech-Medical in 1989. A unique industry, Ken found his way into the business of selling medical equipment in college, and remained in the line of business until he died in late 2015. Anderson filled his role as president, and McKee came on board to manage Tech-Medical’s marketing.
Currently, Tech-Medical distributes products to about 500 customers throughout the United States, Australia, New Zealand, China, Switzerland, Lithuania, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Locally, Mercy’s Resource Optimization & Innovation LLC and CoxHealth are customers.
So far in 2017, Tech-Medical has eclipsed last year’s $1.9 million in sales, and Anderson said it’s on pace for a 25 percent increase to $2.4 million in annual revenue. “We just gradually have added to that list and continue to add as we go,” Anderson says.
The company currently employs 15, many of whom are mobile workers in the United States and internationally. The Nixa location is its only warehouse, and the company outsources manufacturing work.
Detachable endo retrievals, insufflation tubing, laparoscopy cautery probes and more – there is a lot to cover in terms of the products boxed in the warehouse on the other side of the wall from the break room. However, the MBI camera is the hot topic – and not only because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Designed for breast-cancer detection, the MBI also can be used on multiple organs like the thyroid or laparoscopic intestinal imaging. It can detect cancerous tissue as small as 1 mm and boasts a 97 percent overall negative predictive value, according to literature from Dilon Technologies.
Prior to using the camera, the patient is injected with pharmaceutical tracer technetium sestamibi, which the tissue absorbs. Because cancer cells absorb isotopes – radioactive elements – easier than healthy cells, potentially cancerous masses “light up” when viewed by the MBI.
McKee says 50-60 percent of women have dense breast tissue, which is challenging to read on mammograms. Combine that with a patient who is considered high risk, and a potentially deadly mass could go undetected.
“Before you leave the building, you know for sure if you have cancer or not,” McKee says. “That is huge for someone who has been told, ‘We found a mass, but we don’t know what it is.’ MBI provides a peace of mind to the patient.”
No cameras have been purchased locally yet, McKee says, partly because of the capital expense process for hospital purchases. The camera costs $400,000-$700,000 based on the portable or mounted model.
Tech-Medical locally has distributed Dilon Navigator machines – a gamma probe device used for lymphatic mapping and tumor localization. There are three Navigators at CoxHealth and two wireless Navigators at Mercy Hospital Springfield.
However, Dilon released expiration warnings in March 2016 regarding the Navigator many hospitals currently use, McKee says. There are no repair or maintenance options for the old devices.
“They will find they will not be able to get components to repair them,” she says. “It makes the process more expensive and timely. We have been recommending they go ahead and upgrade.”
Tech-Medical also offers Navigator rentals for $795 per procedure or $1,695 for Daniel VATS Probes, which locate lesions in pulmonary procedures.
New and improved
Nearly 40 percent of Tech-Medical’s equipment is from Dilon, with a small portion from Aspen Medical Products.
The other 60 percent is developed by Tech-Medical – such as its scope warmers, tubing and hand-held suction irrigation tube pumps. The 19 products designed by Tech-Medical are manufactured by a few contracted companies in the United States, Taiwan and China.
As is the case with the irrigation pump, Anderson says these developments came after fielding comments from medical practitioners who use the equipment daily.
For instance, the company learned operating room staff had difficulty juggling an electric irrigation system in the crowded room. Anderson says Tech-Medical developed a hand-held version to meet the need.
McKee says the staff focuses on developing products that don’t require electricity.
“If it doesn’t have to plug in, that’s a big deal,” she says.
Tech-Medical also works to save hospitals money by offering product orders in smaller quantities. Many distributers, Anderson says, require bulk orders but sometimes a hospital only needs a few specific items to be used on rare occasions.
“We look for ways for customers to save money and we also look for green initiatives,” McKee says. “The main is saving money. Nowadays, that’s huge in health care.”
With an aim to increase its diesel technician graduates, OTC is adding on to its Industry and Transportation Technology Center on the east side of the Springfield campus.
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