This is an excerpt from the most important story of the year:
When Thomas Shaw gets worked up, he twists in his chair and kneads his hand. Or he paces about in his tube socks grumbling, "They're trying to destroy us," and "The whole thing is a giant scam." And Shaw, the founder of a medical device maker called Retractable Technologies, spends a lot of time being agitated.
One of the topics that gets him most riled up these days is bloodstream infections. And with good reason--while most people rarely think about them, these are the most dangerous of the hospital-acquired bugs that afflict one in ten patients in the United States. Their spread has helped to make contact with our health care system the fifth leading cause of death in this country.
A few years ago, Shaw, an engineer by training, decided he wanted to do something to help solve this problem and quickly homed in on the mechanics of needle-less IV catheters. Rather than using needles to inject drugs into IV systems, most hospitals have moved to a new design, which involves screwing the threaded tip of a needle-less syringe into a specially designed port. The problem is that if the tip brushes against a nurse's scrubs, or a counter, or the railing of a hospital bed, it can pick up bacteria. And the rugged threaded surface makes it difficult to get rid of the germs once they're there. Often, the bacteria go straight into the patients' bloodstream--which explains why, according to some studies, the rate of bloodstream infections is three times higher with needle-less systems than with their needle-based counterparts.
After months of trial and error, Shaw hit on the idea of surrounding the tip of the syringe with six petal-like flanges, which could flare open to make way for the catheter port. Unlike some of the solutions floated by big medical device makers, such as coating the ports with silver, Shaw's innovation added only a few pennies to the cost of production. And it seemed to be remarkably effective: a 2007 clinical study funded by Shaw's company and conducted by the independent SGS Laboratories found the device prevented germs from being transferred to catheters nearly 100 percent of the time.Given these facts, you might expect that hospitals would be lining up to buy Shaw's product. But that is not the case, even though his company is offering to match whatever price medical facilities are paying for their current, infection-prone IV catheter syringes.
Read the whole thing.
And then send it to your Congressperson.