PORTABLE ON DEMAND: The Patient P.O.D. is a portable pouch that seals tight to store personal belongings safely during a hospital stay. The idea behind the Pod is to reduce the amount of people who touch patient’s belongings, while promoting clean hands through the use of the included Purell hand sanitizer.
Hospital acquired infections (HAIs) are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, killing approximately 99,000 people per year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that is more than AIDs, breast cancer and car accidents combined. Now, Kent Hospital is offering a new pouch, called “The Patient Pod,” to help inhibit the spread of HAIs to their patients. The Patient Pod is currently available in the hospital’s gift shop, and will soon be distributed to all surgical patients.
Pat Mastors, former television news anchor for WJAR and WPRI, is the creator of the preventative device. Her father, who was admitted to the hospital for neck surgery in 2005, suffered complications during his post-operation hospital stay. He died in February of 2006 due to an HAI called Clostridium Difficile, or CDIF.
Her father’s death prompted Mastors to research HAIs and their preventions. She soon discovered that simple things, like basic hand sanitation, could thwart these deadly infections.
“I found out that the remote control is often the dirtiest thing in a hospital room,” she said, describing how bacteria can grow and breed on the surface.
She thought about how the television remote remained uncovered during a patient’s stay, and how with multiple hands touching it, it could quickly become a transmitter of HAIs.
“When you go to the dentist, everything is covered,” said Mastors, who initially thought to make a donation of remote control “sleeves” to the hospital after her father’s death. But after combing the Internet, her search for such sleeves came up empty.
At that point, Mastors realized that awareness of such infections alone was not enough; people needed tools to help them prevent the spread of the potentially deadly strains of bacteria.
So, in 2008, she developed an infection defense kit, filled with supplies like anti-bacterial gels and wipes to keep patient’s hands clean. They could also use these kits to remind their hospital staff to keep their hands clean, too.
“But those boxes would get put on a patient’s bedside table and get pushed across the room out of reach,” said Mastors about the kits, so she headed back to the drawing board.
What she came up with instead was a pouch that would clip on the patient’s bedside rail, IV stand, walker or wheelchair. It would be Portable On-Demand: thus the idea for the Patient P.O.D. was born.
Though she had been working on the idea for years, Mastors finally brought a homemade prototype to Fuzion Design, Inc. in April of 2010.
Joe Cacciola, president of Fuzion Design, remembered that Mastors brought in a Ziploc bag with a photo, hand-sanitizer and a note sticking out of it.
Fuzion streamlined the design, making it waterproof, wipe-able, and without any sharp angles or pieces that jutted out, which could snag IV lines.
Wayne Blatchley, vice president of Fuzion Design, said their biggest challenge was making it mobile. So they developed a patent-pending clip that attached to bed-railings, walkers and wheelchairs.
“It self-levels, so the Patient Pod is always level, no matter the angle of the railing it’s on,” said Cacciola.
After a few tweaks and adjustment, Fuzion Design had developed the Pod. It was ready in November, taking just about five months to go from Ziploc baggie to hospital-ready pouch.
The finishing touch was the Patient Pod logo, a green pear.
Mastors said she was drawn to it for its color and beautiful shape.
“I wanted a non-clinical symbol,” she said. “Something that was alive, healthy, whole and holistic. We want to treat the patients as a whole entity. It’s about health, not sickness. It’s round in a world of angles, organic and beautiful.”
The Patient Pod is a plastic pouch that seals with a Ziploc-type zipper. The finished product includes in inner pouch for personal items like hearing aids or dentures.
Upon entering the hospital, Mastors’ father’s hearing aids were destroyed. She said that many people put things like dentures, eyeglasses or hearing aids on their bedside table or a meal tray, only to find them swept away with the trash. To attempt to prevent such things from happening, Mastors encourages people to use the Pod for such personal belongings.
There is also a slot for a photo, and for a nametag with the patient’s preferred moniker. These features, Mastors explained, allow medical personnel to engage in an individualized conversation with the patient, using their preferred name to make them comfortable.
There’s a pen and paper included in the Pod, with a clip for messages to be left. There’s also a sleeve on the side for Purell hand-sanitizer to be dispensed easily, with one hand. The Pods also include information on HAIs, and a remote control sleeve: the item that sparked the entire project.
Rene Fischer, senior vice president of Patient Care Services and chief nursing officer at Kent Hospital, helped with the development of the Patient Pod.
“My interests are around patient safety issues, and around preventing infection from happening,” said Fischer. “We want to empower patients to take control over protecting themselves.”
Fischer said that often patients have to ask a nurse to hand them something, because their bedside table gets pushed away. She admits that though medical staff strives to always keep their hands clean, sometimes they forget, and bacteria can be transmitted to a patient.
“I wish I could have the Patient Pod even in a hotel room,” said Fischer, who noted that similar bacteria can hide on surfaces there, too.
Kent currently sells the Patient Pod in its gift shop for $19.95, and integration into hospital rooms will begin soon.
The final design of the Patient Pod was officially released on June 7 at Kent.
Now that her design is complete, Mastors will be taking it around to institutions and trade shows. She hopes it will gain national attention, and become commonplace in all medical facilities.
“My mission is to get one on every bed rail in every hospital,” she said. “I want it to be as basic as getting shampoo in a hotel room.”
Patient Pods are available at Kent Hospital and online at The Patient Pod’s website. For more information, or to order the Patient Pod, visit www.thepatientpod.com.