As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Bruce Levy — Co-Founder and CEO of COVR Medical, LLC. Dr. Bruce Levy is an Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Surgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN, one of the top-ranked orthopedic hospitals in the world. He completed his Fellowship at the Minneapolis Sports Medicine Center, his Orthopedic Surgical Residency at the Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education; and his Medical Degree at the University of Montreal. Dr. Levy is a Professor of Orthopedics, a published expert in knee and hip arthroscopy, a member of the Arthroscopy Association of North America, the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine, and the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I was 18 years old I was racing Motocross and had a freak training accident, broke several bones, required many surgeries and spent three months in the hospital. I remember the Orthopedic Surgeon meeting me in the Emergency Room and he calmly said to me: “Don’t’ worry son, I’ve got this handled. You may be here for a few months but I’ll take care of this and get you all fixed up.” I thought how incredible it would be to have the skill and knowledge to be able to say that to someone, to actually be able to do what he does. I knew at that moment that I had to become a surgeon. I thought if one patient ever felt about me the way I felt about my surgeon that my life would be fulfilled. So I focused all my energy on my grades and was fortunate to get into medical school and the rest is history. Now 20 years as a surgeon I still remember what drove me to surgery and
feel so blessed to be able to do what I do.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
There are so many patients and so many stories it’s hard to pick one. I guess the one that comes to mind is a 14 year old girl that I operated on almost 10 years ago. She had so much pain in her hips that she couldn’t walk and was being home schooled. Two years prior she was your everyday happy, healthy 12 year old and loved sports. After seeing several specialists she was referred to me for assessment. Everything was so subtle, but what she described was so classic for a tear in her hips that I recommended surgery. Fast forward one year after I operated on both her hips and she was back at school and lead her team to a state championship. Her father works at my hospital and every time I see him I’m reminded about his daughter and it warms my heart…..more than you can imagine.
Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?
I am the inventor of the COVR (pronounced “COVER”) Medical garment, a Class 1 medical device designed to provide the provide patient privacy and dignity, while still allowing medical professionals with the necessary access to perform the procedure around the hip, groin, and pelvic area. The product is currently being used in many leading US healthcare facilities such as The Mayo Clinic, The Cleveland Clinic and HSS (Hospital for Special Surgery) in New York.
How do you think this will change the world?
As COVR Medical garments are designed to provide patient privacy while still allowing for procedural access by medical professionals, our mission is to raise the standard of care for patient privacy and dignity in healthcare settings around the world. This will be much to the benefit of patients that suffer anxiety (sometimes severe) about exposure of their bodies during medical and surgical procedures as well as during post-procedural care.
The COVR products will also aid in improving the privacy and dignity currently offered by poorly designed patient gowns, thereby reducing the hierarchical implications of the medical experience and the vulnerability felt by so many patients.
Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?
In addition to the patient comfort and dignity benefits previously described, COVR Medical garments also provide support and efficiency benefits to many medical/surgical producers. For example, the garments can speed-up prep time for Cath Lab procedures. Another example is the benefit of protecting the sterile field of the male genitalia during Ultra-Sound Guided Hip Injections. These and other benefits help to offset the costs of providing disposable modesty garments to patients. While the garments are not expensive, hospitals are always under cost containment pressures.
Nonetheless, how do you put a price-tag on patient dignity? Particularly as studies have correlated Patient Satisfaction to improved clinical outcomes and loyalty to the healthcare institution and brand.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?
The genesis of COVR Medical was a Hip Arthroscopy case I had in which I explicitly requested that the patient be covered by the little blue towel we had previously used to provide patient privacy.
However, as I came into the room the towel was on the floor and the patient was spread-eagled and completely exposed to the entire OR Team. Of course, I ordered that the blue towel be replaced and that the patient be covered. However, with the shifting of the body during the procedure and my need for access, the patient was exposed for much of the surgery. I went home to my wife, Heather, that day and said “There must be a better way. A stay-in-place garment that is designed to offer comfort, dignity and protection, while still allowing me procedural access.
What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?
1) Patient awareness — that there is a choice and that they don’t have to be exposed and
2) Acceptance in healthcare — an understanding of the many benefits of COVR Medical garments, particularly in meeting the needs of the patient regarding patient privacy.
Healthcare is just starting to understand the anxiety felt by patients who fear exposure during a medical or surgical procedure. In some instances, patient feedback from the use our products are really opening their eyes to the situation. I get high-5’s from my patients every day!
COVR Medical is working on gaining both awareness and acceptance. As with all matters involving change, it will take time, but we do believe that we will raise the standard of care within the next 5 years.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.
1. “It will take years to get this off the ground.” I knew it would take time but I completely underestimated how long each step would take.
2. “Changing the standard of care is a mammoth task.” I thought COVR was such a “no-brainer”, that everyone would see the benefit and want to incorporate it. But change is tough, even if people see all the benefits.
3. “Using investor money is harder than it seems.” I knew we would need significant amount of investor money. I didn’t feel it would be tough to get investors because I believe so strongly in the product and mission. However, what I didn’t appreciate at the time is how I would feel, I mean personally. These people used their hard-earned cash, invested in the business, but they rely on me and the COVR team to use it wisely. I can’t even imagine how I would feel if the investors lost their money. It’s a tremendous responsibility.
4. “It’s more than a full-time job”. When people say there aren’t enough hours in the day….well that sure bears true when you’re a surgeon and invloved in a start up. I am blessed that I have an incredible team around me.
5. That’s all I have!
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
The basic philosophies that have guided my life and career are quite simple:
1. “CREATE BALANCE”: Probably the hardest task for a surgeon is to find balance with family, life, health and patient care. It requires constant adjustment and flexibility but it’s absolutely critical for your overall well being.
2. “DO WHATS RIGHT”. For me, its’ all about sleeping well with a clear conscience. Make the best decisions possible and you will sleep well. IF you are not sleeeping well, re-evaluate your decisions.
3. “BE A TEAM PLAYER”: It’s sometimes hard to share success or see others get credit for your work but in the end if you build a team around you and support them, in return they will support you. It’s when the failures occur you really appreciate having a team around you.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?
There is a large, global market potential for patented COVR Medical products and a validated go-to- market strategy. Would you want to wear our privacy garment if you had an upcoming medical procedure? What about for your child, spouse or mother? Should you be interested in exploring an investment in our company, please contact us.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.