VeinViewer is an innovative illumination technology that is being rolled out by Abela Africa in Southern Africa as a non-invasive solution that shows clinicians a real-time digital projection of a patient’s veins on the surface of the skin.

Co-founder of Abela Africa, Dr Gareth Jermyn, initially learnt about the product developed by US based medical technologies company, Christie Medical Holdings, two years ago when he was searching for a solution to help his wife with her vascular access problems. “He was so impressed by the product that we approached Christie Medical to distribute the technology in South Africa and beyond,” said co-founder of Abela Africa, Ashley Vos.

VeinViewer projects harmless near-infrared light on to the skin that is absorbed by blood but reflected by surrounding tissue. VeinViewer then captures that information, processing it through a computer to create and then project a full field digital image of the patient’s vein pattern directly on the skin using LED. “Such technology is a great aid for clinicians and nurses to identify the best vein options for tests and medical procedures for any patient, regardless of age, skin tone or size,” said Vos.

Vos explained that the importance of VeinViewer technology from an eHealth perspective is that for the first time images of veins can be included in patient records electronically. “This would be useful, for example, to a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy and who requires ongoing management of the condition of their veins. It’s also useful in potential medical-legal claims regarding damage and vascular access complications. Now a nurse can report how many times they failed to successfully gain venous access which is not typically reported by nursing staff in South Africa, and as such there are no real stats on how many failed IV attempts the average patient has,” said Vos.

According to Vos, a few leading South African healthcare facilities have already implemented VeinViewer to improve patient care and outcomes, as well as to reduce costs and risks associated with vascular access. “So far we are working to implement at Life Healthcare and Mediclinic and as well as the smaller private hospitals; as well as Albert Luthuli and other government facilities in KZN,” said Vos. “We are personally involved in every implementation and training, and being a Durban based organisation, KZN has had the most of our time so far.”

According to Vos, radiology and nuclear medicine departments are showing a keen interest in the technology for they can use VeinViewer to help manage the process of the contrast injections used for certain scans.  . Another critical use area is paediatrics because “the technology is non-invasive and has no side effects, so it can be used anywhere on the body, even on a neo-nate baby’s skull,” said Vos.

Abela Africa is witnessing a growing support for the product, and believes the facilities who have implemented VeinViewer are recognising the benefits of improved patient outcomes as well as being able to reduce consumable product wastage. “In the private healthcare sector medical insurance generally currently pays for IV related consumables used whilst a patient is in hospital, and we believe that VeinViewer provides a cost saving solution that can help determine how much money is being wasted,” said Vos.

“The challenge is to get the clinical staff to confirm to management and financial staff that there is a need for a solution. However, clinical staff do not report on the failed access attempts as it would reflect badly on their skills, so while there is a need – there’s also a denial of that need,” continued Vos. “We are working with our clients to facilitate the bridging of that communication channel, for the betterment of the staff, budget and most of all the patient experience.”

Vos believes there is also a need for VeinViewer in the public healthcare sector, however “again budget becomes an issue unless the true cost savings of the technology are understood by the role players,” said Vos.

Depending on the system, VeinViewer costs from R50,000 to R170,000, which according to global clinical studies organisations will see a return on investment in a matter of months due improved patient outcomes and faster delivery of IV therapy with less complications, which can lead to better utilisation of valuable bed space.

With the support of the US Embassy and Christie Medical Holdings, Abela Africa  will host a series of presentations country –wide from 24 -26 March by Paediatric Intensivist and Anaesthesiologist, Dr Gregory Schears – a global thought leader on vascular access  problems.

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