Welcome back to Conversations With Carevoyance, a series dedicated to highlighting healthcare and MedTech vendors, thought leaders, and innovators across the healthcare industry. Today, we’re chatting with Dr. Dan Ladizinsky of Suturegard.
Founded in 2017, Suturegard is a medical technology solutions company with a primary product that allows surgeons to close wounds more quickly and easily with fewer sutures and in such a way that reduces or removes the need for skin grafts and reduces damage to skin.
What Is Suturegard?
Suturegard is a company that launched with a device developed by a husband and wife team following the wife’s C-Section but that has since expanded into other technologies, including an adhesive solution designed for use on thin, fragile skin such as you might find on infants or the elderly.
“That’s the sort of thing we work on, try to solve problems for wound closure that right now are really difficult or require more involved methods for closure,” Ladizinsky said, when we asked him about what Suturegard was all about.
Bill Lear and Jen Akeroyd developed the first prototypes for the initial Suturegard wound closure device while at Oregon State University before joining forces with Ladizinsky, who helped the team secure the right patents and organized funding for the venture.
Who Does Suturegard Work With?
“We picked a very focused group of practitioners,” Ladizinsky told us. “Dermatologists that focus on skin cancer removal.” According to Suturegard, a typical practice might remove as many as fifty skin cancers a week, and because of the nature of these procedures, are dealing with situations in which there is missing skin, which is where Suturegard’s solutions come in.
“It’s pretty simple to close an incision where you simply make an opening and then close it,” Ladizinsky said. “But when you remove skin, it becomes a lot more difficult, because you have a gap.” This is especially challenging in areas where the skin is tight, like the scalp or shin. Skin grafts or skin flaps are a solution, but can create additional wounds, discomfort, risk of anesthesia and cost. Other patients have to care for their open wounds as they heal naturally, which can take weeks or months and make them vulnerable to infection. Suturegard allows these dermatologists to treat their patients more quickly in an office setting under local anesthesia and without extensive recovery times.
Ideally, Suturegard wants to expand to other specialties, now that they’ve got evidence of the efficacy and value of their product. “Our play was to get traction, get evidence, and say ‘Hey, your needs aren’t that dissimilar,’” Ladizinsky said, when talking about next steps. “That’s the purpose of our trials, to figure out what the best uses are for each specialty.”
What Kind of Early Feedback Have You Gotten on Your Product?
“We’ve had really nice testimonials from doctors,” Ladizinsky said, “and our reorder rate is around 50%.” Much of this reflects the fact that Suturegard’s product is unique in the field, and there’s not really anything like it out there. “Doctors have been able to close wounds in a simple straight line under local anesthesia that ordinarily would have required a skin graft or flap under a possible general anesthetic.”
“We’re really alone in this space,” Ladizinsky said. The challenge now is to make sure that the product gets in the hands of the right people and serves the right populations.
What Advice Do You Have for Smaller Companies Hoping to Scale?
“I think the problem is that sometimes people apply a consumer product mentality to the MedTech space,” Ladizinsky said, “or a SaaS mentality. It’s one thing to move electrons around and help millennials find the best restaurant...you can present investors a hockey stick revenue [model], and it could actually happen that way.” But medical technology and healthcare is different, Ladizinsky wanted to emphasize. Doctors and hospitals are by nature conservative and risk-averse, and you aren’t going to have massive overnight success.
“Change has to be incremental,” Ladizinsky said. “It has to be built on something that [doctors] already understand.” As we well know, sales in the medical space are trust-based and evidence-based, and Ladizinsky made sure to focus on that point. “What sells the product is the relationship between the salesperson and the customer, and that’s a hard thing to cultivate.”
The big takeaway?
“There’s no quick way to scale.” No “hockey sticks” or shortcuts here.
How Do You Go About Finding New Clients? Where Does Carevoyance Come In?
“For us, we are a uniquely good fit for Carevoyance, because most skin cancer patients are in the Medicare age range,” Ladizinsky said, “so the database is extremely relevant to the subset of patients that we’re treating.”
Suturegard had already done a lot of customer discovery before finding Carevoyance, which allowed them to ask the right questions. “25 million Medicare claims with an infinite searchable capacity, it’s a giant tool, but you’re only as good as the questions you’re asking.”
Carevoyance’s tools allowed Suturegard to specifically target the patients and the doctors who were struggling with procedures that their product could help with. They quickly realized that scalp wound closures were a huge pain point (literally and figuratively) for their target customer, and that there was a relevant CPT code for that.
“So my first question to Katie was: ‘Who’s doing mid-sized scalp wounds’?” Ladizinsky told us, “And BAM, in two minutes she had this ridiculous list of everyone in the country.” Immediately Suturegard was able to focus in on exactly the right people to pay a visit to, and the partnership proceeded beautifully from there.
“Carevoyance also helped me figure out where I wanted to scale my sales effort,” Ladizinsky continued. The data revealed a higher volume of potential customers in areas of the country that he hadn’t expected, and this helped inform his hiring decisions.
How Are You Selling Carevoyance to Your Team?
“It’s selling itself to my team,” Ladizinsky said. Suturegard’s 1099 based sales team is by nature independent, but the value of the tools for finding the right leads was immediately obvious to Ladizinsky.
“I see Carevoyance as a prospecting tool,” Ladizinsky said. Initially, he had a little bit of pushback from some of his salespeople -- they were used to doing things a certain way, and didn’t immediately see the value of Carevoyance’s tools. “So much depends on how you present things,” he said. “Present it as a complement to sales, not as a replacement.”
Making use of new tools and technology can be challenging for sales teams used to doing things a certain way, but the potential of Carevoyance’s tools for saving time and focus efforts is impossible to ignore, especially with such a specific product, and Ladizinsky is hoping to use it even more effectively in coming months.
What Are You Excited About When It Comes to Healthcare or Medical Technology?
Ladizinsky took this in a direction that we didn’t fully expect, but it was a valuable insight.
“I wish people would take a step back and look at the fact that the United States is number one in percent of GNP spent for healthcare and number 35 in outcomes, and everyone should be attacking that problem,” he said. “And we’re attacking that problem, in a small way. If there’s lots and lots of people doing that, we’re going to fix this stupid system.”
Trying to create solutions that are cost effective and bring value is key to this effort, and for Ladizinsky and Suturegard, that means starting from “the bedside”, rather than creating something and trying to find a use for it after the fact.
“You find the unmet need and go from there,” Ladizinsky said, summing the idea up pretty succinctly. “Let’s find cost effective solutions and try to make the system more affordable for everyone.”