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Latest University of Southern Indiana News
Jun 5, 2023
(photo courtesy of the University of Southern Indiana) It was a major case of burnout that led Morgan Leigh Miller to quit her job as a hospital patient care technician and become a campus bus driver at Indiana University. But there was one element of her old job she couldn’t let go: her idea to automate the physically demanding process of turning bedridden patients—a chief factor in her burnout. After several years of bus driving, she finally decided, “I had to act on it” and enlisted University of Southern Indiana engineering students to bring her device to life. Now with prototypes and a patent in hand, Miller is on a mission to commercialize her device “that’s going to change healthcare.” Miller describes her device as a mattress overlay that turns patients with the push of a button, addressing one of the most laborious tasks for nurses and techs. The current standard of care is to turn bedridden patients at least every two hours to keep blood flowing, which helps prevent bedsores and pressure ulcers. Miller would typically be assigned five patients, but it sometimes climbed to 10, “and there were days I’d get 20 patients all to myself because of short staffing.” “In [a standard 12-hour shift], you’re doing six turns for just one patient. I got so overwhelmed; I felt like it was just aging my soul to be there,” says Miller, founder of Miller Co Medical Devices LLC. “There were days I was working 16-hour shifts and would go home and collapse…it was too mentally, physically and emotionally taxing.” Your browser does not support the audio element. An on-the-job back injury forced her to take time off, and that’s when her idea began to take shape. Her device, called the Automatic Patient Turning and Pressure Alternating Mattress Overlay, resembles a body-length cushion that fits on top of a standard hospital bed. With the push of a button, air chambers that run vertically from head to toe fully inflate on one side of the cushion to tilt the patient to either side 30 degrees, the turning standard for hospitals required by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). The device is quiet and inflates gradually over the course of five minutes, which Miller says would help patients stay asleep during the turning process. “It also has a pressure alternating system; different air chambers fill with air while the other chambers don’t, which moves blood from different parts of your body to prevent pressure ulcers,” says Miller. “So [the chambers] are moving blood…from your toes up to your head, providing blood circulation.” Miller also thought to add handles to the device to make lifting easier, because medical staff typically rely on a sheet to transfer patients. “Obviously, sheets aren’t strong enough to support a 200 or 300 pound person, so they’d yank on the sheets, and the patient would get thrown around—it was just horrible to watch,” says Miller. “If someone codes, [nurses] can use the handles to pull the patient from the bed onto the stretcher and get them where they need to go faster.” Miller says she sat on her idea for four years as a bus driver, but “my soul started screaming at me that I had this idea, and I wasn’t doing anything about it.” With only a hand-drawn sketch and no business experience, building the device seemed impossible to Miller. After being turned down by multiple companies, she connected with USI’s Center for Applied Research (CAR), and the group helped her earn state-funded grants for entrepreneurs. “I took in my sketch [to CAR] of what I was thinking and wanting it to look like,” says Miller. “[The students] were able to look at that and focus on all the good parts; they exceeded all of my expectations. Having them bring my idea to reality really was lifechanging.” “I learned that you can’t be afraid to start over,” says USI Manufacturing Engineering student Joshua Thurman, who worked on the project. “[We were given] a previous engineer’s design ideas, and ultimately, we decided that design wasn’t going to work, so I had to completely scrap that and start from zero.” The team ultimately built four prototypes, and plans are underway to manufacture the devices at female-owned Mursix Corp. in Delaware County. The device is 510(k) exempt, meaning FDA approval is not required to assure the safety and effectiveness of the device, and she’s in the process of earning OSHA and UL (safety) certification. Miller showcased her prototypes at a national medical trade show this spring and says she now has “a list of people who are waiting.” Your browser does not support the audio element. Miller earned a patent for the device earlier this year after being denied three previous times, which only strengthened her resolve. “If someone tells you no, you’re talking to the wrong person; that’s how I look at it,” says Miller. “I want other entrepreneurs to know no matter who you are, where you come from or what circumstances you’re currently in, you are 100% capable of accomplishing your goals. I was a bus driver, I’m a woman, and I created this great thing with a mission to change healthcare. It’s completely out of even my wildest dreams.” Story Continues Below
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