How does a small manufacturing company in Connecticut that once turned out lighting fixtures, parachute ripcord assemblies, and rubber seals for the ball bearing industry, among other items, become a global leader in patient positioning products for orthopedic surgery?
By continually reinventing itself, taking advantage of every opportunity and producing the highest quality equipment in its product category. This is the story of Innovative Medical Products (IMP) of Plainville, Connecticut, that celebrated in May 2014 its 30th anniversary of operation.
How it all began
It all started three decades ago with a hastily arranged plane trip to a Wisconsin airport for an encounter with the orthopedic surgeon for the Green Bay Packers, Dr. George McGuire. Dr. McGuire had invented a hip positioner for his orthopedic practice. A Long Island, NY, orthopedic surgeon had been searching for the company that made the device but was unsuccessful in locating it. The surgeon then asked a local medical equipment company he had been dealing with to manufacture the positioner. But they were uninterested – except for Jim Bailey, the company’s Long Island distributor. Unlike his colleagues, Bailey, who later became president of IMP, saw the big market potential for such a device. That’s when Bailey went to his friend, Alan Wasley, who was then head of Wasley Products (founded in 1926 by Alan Wasley’s grandfather, Arthur, who specialized in the manufacture of custom lighting fixtures.) and, later, chairman of IMP. Bailey urged Wasley, “There’s going to be a huge market for this; we need to make it.” Even though this type of work was not part of the company’s regular portfolio, Wasley knew how to retool his manufacturing process and agreed to begin production of the positioner.
When the manufacturing of the hip positioner was underway at the Wasley plant, a sheriff showed up at the door one day and notified Wasley and Bailey they were infringing on McGuire’s patent and would be sued, even though there had been no patent numbers or manufacturer markings on the original device they were given to reproduce. Wasley and Bailey tried to speak on the phone with Dr. McGuire several times but never got through, yet they did get to know McGuire’s secretary and through that connection found out from her what McGuire looked liked and when and where the physician would be at the Green Bay airport. They quickly made flight arrangements, flew to Wisconsin, intercepted McGuire at the airline terminal and sat him down to explain how they would like to manufacture and sell his hip positioner because, as they told him, “There are a lot of surgeons out there who want it but can’t find it.” McGuire was convinced and that’s how Innovative Medical Products got started.
The hip positioner was originally marketed as the McGuire Pelvic Positioner until the patent expired in 1992. After some updating, the device became known as the Universal Lateral Positioner. This initial venture formed the foundation of Innovative Medical Products as we know it today.
Collaboration with orthopedic surgeons
In 1990, IMP began working closely with orthopedic surgeons to develop patient positioners that were specific solutions to surgeon and operating room staff needs. Collaborating with Dr. William Capello, orthopedic surgeon at the University of Indiana Medical Center, IMP developed the Slimline Abduction Pillow used to immobilize a patient’s legs following hip surgery. A year later, IMP allied with Dr. G. David Ritland at Hartford’s St. Francis Hospital in designing a unique and patented Turnstile Casting Stand used for applying lower leg casts. Further collaboration with Dr. Ritland resulted in the IMP Femur Finder, as well as an X-ray view box called the Porta-View. All of these devices are still made by IMP today.
In 2001, IMP began its current relationship with Dr. Edward De Mayo, an orthopedic surgeon at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco. Like several orthopedic surgeons, Dr. De Mayo earned a degree in engineering, prior to his medical degree, which helped him better understand the mechanics of orthopedic surgery. The De Mayo-IMP partnership has resulted in a number of innovative orthopedic solutions including the De Mayo Hip Positioner, De Mayo Universal Distractor, De Mayo Knee Positioner, De Mayo Ankle Distractor, and the De Mayo RoTractor.
IMP has also collaborated with Dr. Steven Haas, of New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery, on the SuperBump; Dr. Alan Reznik, of the Orthopaedic Group and Yale-New Haven Hospital, on the Reznik Universal Shoulder Postioner; and Dr. Frank Humbles, of Conway Hospital in North Carolina, on the Humbles LapWrap and Humbles TrenWrap.
A world leader in orthopedics and general patient protection
Besides its close collaboration with orthopedic surgeons, IMP itself has acquired 23 patents over its 30-year history, with approximately 12 additional patents pending. Renowned teaching hospitals including the Connecticut Joint Replacement Institute, the Hospital for Special Surgery, New York University Hospital for Joint Disease, Kaiser Permanente, and Johns Hopkins specify IMP positioners and protective pads. World famous orthopedic companies such as MAKO, Zimmer, Smith-Nephew, Stryker and DePuy have relied on IMP’s high quality and innovative devices to aid in their advancements in robotics, computer-assisted surgeries, and improved surgical techniques that enhance procedure performance, while reducing costs to hospitals and improving patient outcomes.
Time of growth
In 2004, IMP began to rapidly increase its sales and distribution system mainly due to the De Mayo Knee Positioner's presence in several operating rooms throughout the country and the company’s networking with existing distribution organizations. Today, IMP has over 40 representative and distributor organizations, signifying more than 300 people selling IMP products. The company also has five international distributors with a very strong presence in Japan and Canada. In addition, IMP has had a long-standing visibility through advertising in the key medical journals and continues to grow its presence with the release of new, innovative products.
Besides designing and manufacturing world class positioners for orthopedic surgery, including robotic and computer-assisted surgeries, and sports medicine, Innovative Medical Products provides many other positioning solutions in assisting the surgeon, anesthesiologist, and OR staff, while protecting the patient. These include the Humbles LapWrap used to secure patients’ arms by their sides during surgery, and the Humbles TrenWrap, a new positioning pad system that securely anchors a patient prior to positioning in Trendelenburg for robotic and laparoscopic surgeries.
The growth and success of Innovative Medical Products has been built on a tradition of manufacturing the best quality, Made-in-America, products, supported by an unflagging resolve to change with the times and adapt to new technologies. Since its beginning in 1984, IMP has pioneered many advances in orthopedic and surgical positioning, and has become a world leader in patient positioning devices. This ability to seize opportunities, chart new courses, and wholeheartedly commit its resources to serving its customers’ needs are the secret of its success – something that has kept IMP in business for 30 years and will continue to do so well into the future.