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KVART – a hospital bed with built-in intelligence

"Exercise is the best medicine!” – this was the maxim adopted by Dr. Clemens Gutknecht and Dr. Josef Schönberger when they were investigating the treatment, remobilisation and care of bedridden patients. The findings of the two experienced neurologists led to the development of a concept for an intelligent hospital bed. Based on a patented technology and quantitative market potential estimates, Gutknecht and Schönberger have established KVART GmbH in Konstanz with which they aim to open up completely new dimensions in the treatment and care of patients in hospitals, nursing homes and in their own homes.

KVART GmbH’s management: Dr. Clemens Gutknecht (CEO) and Dr. Josef Schönberger (R&D) with their coaches Dr. Michael Steinwand (business development) and Moritz Meidert (finances). (© BioLAGO) © BioLAGO

The active hospital bed concept integrates numerous novel features; the beds can be electronically raised, lowered and tilted and enable the passive and active movement of the patient’s extremities, all of which contributes to stimulating the patient’s vital functions. The most important element of the concept is the active feedback of basal physiological parameters such as pulse and blood pressure that control the bed functions by way of a multiparametric feedback control system. The bed software controls the type, duration and amplitude of the movements based on target values determined by the treating doctor. This means that rather than the patient being at the mercy of a machine, the doctor’s treatment instructions are intelligently implemented by the bed. In principle this is dual directional: on the one hand, patients are intensively mobilised according to their medical needs. On the other hand, the desired vital values of patients can ideally be achieved purely as a result of the physical stimuli and without medication. 

KVART assists in the treatment and care of bedridden patients

The new concept is concealed within the product and company name. KVART stands for “kardiovaskuläres Akutbett mit Regeltechnik” which in English means “cardiovascular acute bed with control technology”. The idea for the bed came about in 2007 when Gutknecht and Schönberger, both highly experienced senior physicians in neurological hospitals in Germany and Switzerland, worked together on a research project involving numerous partners from Switzerland, Austria and Germany. “We worked with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and other academic partners, the neurological rehabilitation clinic in Zihlschlacht in Switzerland, a clinic in the Austrian city of Hochzirl and a Swiss medical device company, and focussed on the development of a new approach for the treatment of vegetative state patients. We specifically examined the effect that tilting and movement, e.g. passive up- and down movement, has on different patient functions,” Gutknecht and Schönberger explained. 

After analysing the results of their investigations, Gutknecht and Schönberger saw the potential for a completely new approach in the intensive care and rehabilitation of bedridden patients. The objective of the approach was the continuous improvement of the vital functions of the bedridden patient by way of physical stimuli. The key idea was to turn the approach into reality by finding a relatively easy way to equip hospital beds with the necessary functions and then automating the functions using a software-driven control system, thus making the approach feasible for application in daily clinical practice. Gutknecht and Schönberger registered the idea as a patent and considered setting up a company.

The two inventors contacted BioLAGO for help and were put in contact with Dr. Michael Steinwand, owner of Innovendia Consulting Services and member of the BioLAGO association. Steinwand, who is an experienced life sciences business developer, initially discussed some fundamental issues with the company founders. “We first discussed the market opportunities our KVART bed may have, and what functions were required for the bed. Basically, these analyses provided us with the information that we needed in order to find out whether the idea was at all marketable,” said Steinwand who now also works for bwcon where he acts as a coach for life sciences start-up companies. After the most essential questions had been answered positively, the two doctors decided to establish their own business in 2013.

Competitive product – hospital bed fills market gap

The innovative KVART principle. © KVART GmbH
KVART GmbH has the advantage that it is currently the only company with such a product. “Although there are quite sophisticated multifunctional beds with a high-tech character as well as interesting therapy devices on the market, none of the hospital beds is as ‘smart’ as KVART. And this is true for the German, Swiss and in fact the entire international market,” said Gutknecht. KVART GmbH initially targets institutions for early rehabilitation and intensive care wards, where 25,000 patient beds are used in Germany alone. “We’ve already had some enquiries and there is huge interest in our invention. If everything turns out as we hope, then we will be able to place the bed on the market in 2014,” Gutknecht said. The inventors also plan to slightly modify the bed and adapt it for use in nursing homes, rehabilitation clinics and home care. “In terms of marketing, we will have to convince cost bearers, i.e. healthcare insurance companies, about the benefit of the bed and hope that they will take on the costs,” said Steinwand from Innovendia Consulting. The company founders’ second coach, Moritz Meidert from the Springwater group, is in charge of the start-up’s finances and has prepared an 8-year business plan. The business plan foresees that the beds will go into serial production in the third year after company foundation and that positive cash flow can be expected soon after. Meidert, Steinwand and the two KVART founders are looking for further partners and investors in order to be able to turn the product into a commercial commodity.

Important development steps

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich has something that can be called an early prototype of the bed. The ETH’s bed has a dynamic tilting table with external devices for measuring a patient’s pulse and blood pressure. Further parameters will be added, including brain pressure, body temperature and breathing frequency. “The core of the bed is its ability to monitor several physiological parameters simultaneously and continuously and use the data for adjusting the bed’s movement and other stimulation functions. I call this multi-input, multi-output principle, i.e. MIMO,” explained Schönberger who is in charge of the company’s R&D. “The system controls the functions and adjusts the movements so that the patient’s physiological target values are in line with the value range determined by the treating doctor. This also guarantees the therapy-oriented stabilisation of vital functions over a longer period of time.” The company hopes to have a prototype ready by the end of December and will initially use it in a feasibility study involving healthy volunteers. The beds will be thoroughly tested and prototypes adjusted to the requirements of patients will be developed and tested in renowned university hospitals and early rehabilitation institutions.

Who will benefit?

"An invention only becomes an innovation when it is of value for customers,” said Steinwand highlighting his company’s basic work thesis. In the case of the KVART bed, patients, healthcare providers and cost bearers alike can hugely benefit from it. “The patient undergoes intensive and frequent therapeutic exercise very early on, which contributes to preventing bedsores and improving vital parameters. This has previously not been possible at all or not to the same extent as with KVART; if the patient is unable to move him-/herself, a second person is often required to move the patient around in the bed, which is what makes traditional hospital beds relatively resource intensive. We believe that the systematic application of the KVART principle will contribute to improving the patient’s condition, reduce recovery time, and lead to fewer complications,” said Schönberger and Gutknecht. “Of course, we still have to prove this in clinical trials,” Gutknecht added. KVART has economic benefits for both healthcare providers and cost bearers: billable therapeutic services without the need for extra personnel, early therapeutic success associated with shorter stays in costly hospital wards and lower medication costs.

Contact:

KVART GmbH
Dr. med. Clemens Gutknecht (CEO)
Haydnstrasse 13
78464 Konstanz
Tel.: +49 (0)7531 / 62486
E-mail: clemens.gutknecht(at)googlemail.com

Dr. med. Josef L. Schönberger (Director of R&D)
Weinfelder Straße 46
CH 8580 Amriswil
Tel.: +41 79 45 700 54
E-mail: josef-ludwig.schoenberger(at)bluewin.ch

Innovendia Consulting Services
Dr. Michael Steinwand
Bartholomäus-Moser-Weg 4
88696 Owingen
Tel.: +49(0)7551 / 838411
E-mail: msteinwand(at)innovendia.de

Website address: https://www.gesundheitsindustrie-bw.de/en/article/news/kvart-a-hospital-bed-with-built-in-intelligence