For years, there has been an aversion to discussing the daily hygiene needs of patients who are not physically independent. Be it someone in comatose, someone who is incontinent or someone physically disabled how they bathe, brush, and robe themselves. This is a topic that has eluded popular medical discourse for a while. And one of these topics is the need of passing of daily body waste.
For urination, there is a device called a urinary catheter. It is a tube passed through the urethra and into the bladder in order to drain it. It has been used by doctors for decades and is an extremely common and everyday workaround to a very essential bodily function.
However, unfortunately, a similar alternative for passing stool does not exist. Nurses and caretakers often have to deal with soiled beds, clean the patients by hand, or put on diapers and keep changing them. All of these alternatives are breeding grounds for bacteria, diseases and infections. Bed sores and cross infections are a ravaging problem and no one has come to the helm to solve it… until now.
A start-up company founded in 2012, which goes by the name Consure Medical, is now revamping the field of patient hygiene and stool management. It is a health tech company founded in Delhi and is the brainchild of Nishith Chasmawala and Amit Sharma.
“Stool management is such a ‘yucky’ problem and an assault on the dignity of people,” Amit Sharma, co-founder and chief technology officer at Consure, tells Forbes India. “A lot of times, family members or the women in the family have to do the cleaning. In bedridden patients, faecal contents lead to a 22 per cent increase in bed sores. That’s how we came up with a product that is clinically better and reduces the cost for hospitals.”
Both Sharma and Chasmawala met during the Stanford-India Biodesign Programme which was a collaboration between Stanford University and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and the Indian Institute of Technology- both in Delhi.
Before entering the program Chasmawala had worked with Cordis Corp. and Kyphon on medical device manufacturing while Sharma had existing experience at Maruti Suzuki and a design consulting firm called CryogenX.
During the programme, the two paired up in order to identify a pressing problem in the Indian medical ecosystem before settling in on stool management. This idea was zeroed on after a teammate’s mother on the programme was dealing with incontinence.
When the founders had not begun with the idea the main method to deal with patients was diapers.
“Adult diapers have a lot of related complications, in women, for instance, stool could go into the urinary tract and cause urinary infections. We wanted a technologically different and intelligently designed product that could help these patients”, said Sharma to Forbes.
The word “Consure” is an amalgamation of the words continence assured. The USP of the company’s product revolves around the tech they use to make it. The product Consure makes is called Qora.
Qora is an applicator that is inserted into the colon to provide a pathway for stool. It is then diverted to a bio-disposable bag to be thrown away.
“Many of the products that are in the market aren’t designed considering the physiology and anatomy of the patient,” Sharma explains in an interview. “Qora uses an ergonomically-designed, self-expanding latex that makes it easier for the patient [to deal with faecal incontinence].”
This untapped problem had a lot of potentials to become a great startup and thus the funding offers have started pouring in.
So far the company has run 2 rounds of funding:
1. Series A- June 1st 2012
2. Series B- April 7th 2016
Series A of funding got into Consure through the Indian Angel Network, India Innovation Fund and India Venture Partners. Series B of funding was raised through Accel Partners.
The amount raised in these funding rounds is currently not disclosed nor confirmed.
The Qora units are sold through doctor prescriptions only but the company states that even an untrained professional can operate the product.
“Getting clearance from the authorities for an OTC [over-the-counter] product is tough, and even though the device is easy to use, any injury can spell trouble.”
Each unit of the product sells at Rs. 6000 and is single use. Another version of the product is a costlier one at Rs. 14000. This includes a replaceable bag and a unit that can be used for 29 days. The last and the most expensive variant is for Rs. 18000 and can be used even during MRI scans.
So far sales are happening in the US and Tier 1 cities in India such as Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai. The company wants to expand to more South East Asian countries and build market share. Catering to a global market is one of its main goals.
Consure Medical so far is making $6.9 million in revenue annually.
Its main competitors include Bard Medical, Medline Industries, and Blue Belt Technologies. Other international competitions come from companies like Coloplast from Denmark, UK company Convatec and US-based Hollister who all are now catering to the same product.
“My sense is that the demand for such products is going to rise,” says Dr Govind K Makharia, a professor at the department of gastroenterology at AIIMS. “Compared to the products in the US, Consure’s device is cheaper. It is a boon as the entire process is hygienic. Maybe now, they can look at new designs aimed at people who aren’t bedridden and yet struggling with incontinence.”
The market of this medical product is on the rise with 18million patients in the US and about 58% of hospital patients in India suffering from faecal incontinence. The condition is extremely debilitating for patients and Consure is aiming to provide an option with more convenience and integrity.