Invention keeps patients positioned for surgery

An Oregon anesthesiologist creates vacuum-activated positioners.

By Karen Caffarini — Posted Feb. 23, 2009

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Making sidelines pay

Business Pitch

Doctors who branched out beyond running their practice tell why they did it, how they did it, and what you should know before you do it.
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Name: E. Lloyd Hiebert, MD

Specialty: Anesthesiology

Location: Salem, Ore.

Company: Hug-U-Vac makes various vacuum-activated positioners used in surgeries, both medical and veterinary.The Hug-U-Vac positioners, which were invented by Dr. Hiebert, have a patented axillary pillow to help prevent stretch or nerve injuries during surgery, a secure operating table attachment to prevent shifting and an external shell filled with polystyrene beads that conforms to the patient's body.

Both the medical and veterinary lines come in various sizes. There are two types of positioners: one for patients lying on their sides or backs, and one, just placed on the market in mid-February, for patients undergoing laparoscopic procedures.

Positioners are available online (link).

Annual revenue: Dr. Hiebert declined to give revenue totals for the 5-year-old company. The medical positioners range in price from $299.95 for the pediatric line to $695 for the laparoscopic line. A manual vacuum pump costs $160.

Why he started the business: "As an anesthesiologist for 20 years, I positioned thousands of patients for surgery. No positioner did the job right. I thought I could do better, so I went to the drawing board and designed one."

Why he stopped practicing: Dr. Hiebert has not practiced medicine for about a year while he focuses on Hug-U-Vac. "I'm helping surgeons help patients through my positioners."

Words of wisdom:"The easiest part of any invention is the design and patent process. The hardest part is marketing the product. I get some sales off the Web, but the products need to be shown to and used by the potential customer. I now have distributors around the country to do that."

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