Health Care and Technology

Skytron scouts what’s new and what’s next

First U.S. operating room cockpit will bring advanced metrics to physicians during surgery to help prevent infections.

September 29, 2017
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OR Cockpit
Skytron’s OR Cockpit device was developed by Dutch software company NewCompliance for use in hospital surgical suites. Courtesy Skytron

Opportunity drives everything Skytron does as a medical device manufacturer/distributor, according to its CEO.

Dave Mehney, son of the Grand Rapids-based company’s founder David P. Mehney, leads the organization with operations throughout North America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.

Skytron employs 115 people in West Michigan and had revenue of $150 million in 2016, as well as in 2015.

The company, which was named West Michigan’s World Trader of the Year in 2014, owns several medical device manufacturers and is a distributor to hospital customers all over the world.

Mehney said in an industry where rapid change is the norm, Skytron’s product management team scouts what’s new and what’s next.

“They search the world for products,” Mehney said. “We don’t develop our own; we decide what features we want and go search the world for them. The goal is to find the best supplier … and form a partnership.”

In addition to acquiring products that fit into its existing lines — such as surgical tables, lights, booms and sterilizers — Skytron looks for differentiators.

“The biggest thing we do is first (look for) opportunity if something comes our way and it sounds like a good fit,” he said. “And second, and most importantly, (we look at) our strategic plan — what do we feel we best need to compete in our environment? We find the best product to help us compete.”

One of the newest products in Skytron’s portfolio is called The OR Cockpit. It is the first of its kind in the U.S., thanks to Dutch software company NewCompliance.

“The OR Cockpit is basically a measurement tool where it will display metrics, such as the number of (operating room) door openings during surgery or the time spent from anesthesia to initial incision, to help with infection prevention by giving measurements to the team to help improve performance,” Mehney said.

“The ‘cockpit’ refers to the instruments, the dials, the measurement tools. It looks like a flat panel display, and it’s really the software that’s behind it.”

He said the product’s U.S. debut with Skytron stemmed from Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima’s 2015 visit to West Michigan.

Representatives from approximately 50 Dutch-headquartered companies accompanied the royal couple.

Paul Heule is a principal at Eenhoorn, Honorary Dutch Consul of West Michigan and founder of West Michigan Global Initiative, formed in 2010 to create business connections between West Michigan and the Netherlands. Heule asked Mehney to host the Dutch business leaders at Skytron during their visit.

“I came in and did a presentation, gave a tour of Skytron, and afterward in a Q&A, one person said she doesn’t have a product for us, but she has a friend that does,” Mehney said.

“I went to the Netherlands because I have a factory over there. I met with the employees and went to The Hague afterward. The trade minister drove me around and introduced me to a number of companies, one being the OR Cockpit company, NewCompliance.”

“Now we are offering (The OR Cockpit) exclusively in the U.S.,” he said.

Skytron is in talks with potential customers for The OR Cockpit, including Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, though no deal has been finalized.

Mehney said Skytron will hold off for now on pitching the product to West Michigan’s largest health system, Spectrum Health, as the cockpit requires IT support that the hospitals currently are using for a data migration project.

“With Spectrum, we’re not going to bring it up until they’re done moving electronic medical records to Epic through the NEXUS project,” Mehney said.

Other product investments Skytron has made recently include changes in its SkyVision video integration technology — which is equipment that allows touchscreen management of clinical visual information during surgery.

Skytron has offered video integration technology since 2004, but streaming is the most recent update to the software.

“Basically, what you’re doing with streaming is you get video clips and send them for teaching and recording purposes,” Mehney said. “It’s primarily video taken in the OR and sent for other uses. It’s also consultation not just shooting.”

He said every product category Skytron offers has something new every year, so the company is used to the race for new technologies. But filling orders can be a challenge as health systems continue to consolidate.

“Clinicians and physicians (are) becoming hospital-employed, hospitals are becoming parts of networks like Spectrum and hospitals like Hastings are joining Spectrum,” Mehney said. “That’s nationwide because the regulatory costs are so tremendous they have to … be efficient.”

He said the consolidation brings two main challenges for Skytron.

First, “the clinicians using our product have a smaller voice in purchasing decisions than historically; it’s now centralized.”

And secondly, “it’s leading to a bunch of bigger orders versus lots of small orders.”

As a result, he said Skytron has to work harder on communicating how its products can help create system-wide efficiencies.

“They don’t always think about how our solutions create efficiency in the health care environment,” he said. “We need to focus on being that health care efficiency company.”

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