NF Health Care: preventing pressure ulcers with innovative, low-cost devices

Professor Nalinee Kovitwanawong, first trained and then practised as an anaesthetist. When she became aware of the pain and suffering caused by pressure ulcers suffered by many of the patients that passed through her theater, she decided to switch careers. Now she is heading up her own company, NF Health Care, which produces a range of medical products, under the Dr. N. Medigel brand, including products to prevent and/or relieve pressure ulcers. The company currently has a staff of eight people.

After a decade of research and development in collaboration with materials engineers, doctors and other medical experts, Professor Kovitwanawong developed an innovative visco-elastic polymer gel capable of distributing pressure to relieve body pain caused by prolonged periods of bed rest. Having patented the polymer, Professor Kovitwanawong began commercializing it around four years ago. Demand for the product is such that the company’s revenues increased by around 150 percent in 2021.

About the invention

Professor Nalinee Kovitwanawong,
founder of NF Health Care Co., Ltd, is the inventor
of a visco-elastic polymer gel, which is used in devices
to reduce the risk of painful pressure ulcers for patients
requiring prolonged periods of bed rest.
(Photo: © NF Health Care, Thailand)

Pressure ulcers affect millions of bedridden patients around the world every day and can have a negative impact on the health status and quality of life of patients. Their treatment adds to the workload of healthcare workers and amplifies the cost of patient care.

The medical devices produced by NF Health Care lower the risk of sores and ulcers by reducing stress on various pressure points on the patient’s body when lying down for prolonged periods. The devices have offered a static support surface, which distributes the pressure created by the body’s contact with the surface, thereby reducing the risk of pressure ulcers. The company’s proprietary technology comprises an innovative visco-elastic polymer gel, which is encased in natural latex from the locally grown para rubber tree, thereby transforming an abundant local material into a valuable resource for medical use.

The company markets its products under the Dr. N. Medigel brand. These devices offer two key benefits. First, they reduce the risk of pressure ulcers among patients. And second, make life easier for care workers who no longer have to lift and re-position their patients every two hours to prevent pressure ulcers.

At first, the company’s devices helped to position patients properly in the operating room. Since then, the company has expanded the Dr. N. Medigel concept into three main product lines targeting different markets. The first product line includes its so-called flipping bed, which has evolved into a remote-controlled smart bed that is programmable to change automatically a patient’s position at regular intervals. It also includes wheel chairs and other supports used in a hospital setting. Second, the company is looking to equip care homes with its flipping bed solution. And third, the company is producing its Doctor N Shoes for healthcare workers.

At first, Dr. N. Medigel-branded support devices were used to position patients in operating theaters. (Photo: © NF Health Care, Thailand)

In line with its commitment to innovation and to delivering high-performance offerings, the company has an additional four products are in the pipeline for which it is seeking intellectual property (IP) rights.

The role that intellectual property plays at NF Health Care

“Our business strategy is based on research and development. We believe that intellectual property will enhance business competitiveness and enable us to build partnerships,” says Professor Kovitwanawong, who underlines her commitment to building a stronger brand and registering the Dr. N. Medigel trademark internationally as the company expands.

“Having an IP strategy in place has helped us promote invention, exportation, commercialization and to strengthen our business,” Professor Kovitwanawong explains. “Our IP registration has increased freedom to operate and enabled us to avoid IP infringement. Focusing on IP rights increases the value and competitiveness of SMEs like ours,” Professor Kovitwanawong adds.

Servicing an ageing population

During COVID-19 pandemic, NF Health Care’s
flipping beds were used for patients suffering from
COVID-19 in hospital intensive care wards in
Thailand. (Photo: © NF Health Care, Thailand)

Among others, the company is working with the procurement service of the Thai Government to supply government hospitals, private hospitals and end-users. Given Thailand’s growing ageing population, for whom the risk of pressure ulcers is more acute, demand for these devices is likely to expand, especially given shortages of younger healthcare workers. In 2019, the global market for pressure ulcer prevention devices was estimated at USD 4.1 billion, according to the company, with the Asian market worth around USD 1 billion.

A commitment to excellence

Since NF Health Care’s research began and the company began commercializing its products under the Dr. N. Medigel brand, which it registered as a trademark, it has sought to understand the needs of its customers. Their feedback continues to help the company improve its product lines. Moreover, all employees support each other to be more effective in the workplace. For example, the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) acts as a product specialist and spends time shadowing members of the sales team to ensure that customers get a product that is tailored to their needs.