Medical Metrics

Memphis-made VeinViewer increasing patient satisfaction at hospitals

By Jennifer Johnson Backer

A provision of the Affordable Care Act that ties patient satisfaction to reimbursement has been a boon for medical device maker Christie Medical Holdings Inc.

Christie Medical Holdings Inc.’s VeinViewer Flex helps hospitals improve surface vein access. VeinViewer is the Memphis-based company’s flagship product. 

(Photo Courtesy of Christie Medical Holdings Inc.)

Sales of the Memphis-based company’s flagship product, VeinViewer, have gained as more hospitals purchase the device to win praise from patients – a pursuit that can prove elusive. Revenue at Christie Medical Holdings gained 65 percent in 2012, compared with the same period a year earlier. The company declined to provide the number of units sold and revenue figures.

VeinViewer uses near-infrared light to illuminate veins under a patient’s skin to help nurses and other medical professionals improve surface vein access, reducing the number of sticks and procedure time.

“That does translate directly into patient satisfaction, because from the patient perspective, they can experience delayed care or additional pain from medical sticks,” said George Pinho, president of Christie Medical Holdings.

Medicare’s new rule, mandated in the Affordable Care Act, increases competition for hospitals in a race to satisfy patients. Medicare rewards hospitals with the highest patient satisfaction. Providers with the best scores receive more money through an initiative called the Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Program.

While satisfaction is not the only measure to gauge quality of care, it is an important component. Other metrics examine everything from how quickly heart attack patients receive life-saving surgery on their arteries to whether a hospital selects the best antibiotic to treat pneumonia patients.

Patients who receive a survey from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services aren’t asked directly about IV placement or sticks, but are asked about pain control and their overall satisfaction with care received.

Hospitals and other facilities use the VeinViewer to improve surface vein access, reduce costs and improve the quality of care provided, Pinho said. Here in Memphis, both Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital use the VeinViewer. Use of the device has also quickly spread in facilities ranging from specialized vein clinics to ambulances.

VeinViewer originally was conceived to visualize veins for making IVs easier to place, but its use has become widespread in a variety of settings to find the best location to place IVs, actually performing the stick and ensuring the needle is placed correctly.

Pinho said hospitals that have introduced VeinViewer have seen a dramatic rise in patient satisfaction scores. He cited a hospital in the Chicago area that saw its patient satisfaction scores gain to the 93rd percentile, from the low 30s, after the introduction of VeinViewer.

“With value-based purchasing being a metric in the market, that becomes highly important for the hospital as a reimbursement tool to show that they are obviously moving towards value-based purchasing throughout the facility,” he said. “That is one of the prime reasons people buy our product today.”

VeinViewer also can reduce the use of more invasive procedures, like peripherally inserted catheters, in cases where they aren’t clinically necessary.

“In some cases, where PICs are otherwise not necessary to do, patients are incurring a much more expensive and potentially infectious procedure with a PIC line that they wouldn’t otherwise have to do if a vein could be found – and that’s what the VeinViewer obviously can do,” Pinho said.

Christie Medical Holdings declined to provide current retail price ranges for VeinViewer. Back in 2010, The Commercial Appeal reported the device retailed for $29,900.

That same year, Memphis-based Luminetx Corp. was sold to Christie Digital Systems USA Inc., of which Christie Medical Holdings is a division. Christie Digital makes projection equipment for businesses and movie theaters, but the acquisition also provided the company a foothold in the medical industry.