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N EU - 2015

Redesigning Medical D ev i c e s w i t h F l u i t i o n I n n ovat i o n s Fluition’s fantastic success has been, in large part, due to their ability to fit themselves within the design thinking model. With a heavy emphasis on empathy, the interdisciplinary team, Kathryn Christopher, Briauna Taylor, Brittany Taylor, Andrew Van Dyke, and Leah Bauer, believe in “superior medical devices.” Their goal is to design and provide innovative medical devices that cater to the needs of the healthcare industry.

Christopher said that one of the most crucial pieces to the team’s success was, and continues to be, “absorb[ing] everything from everyone… We want all the feedback someone can possibly give us, whether it’s about our design or the business plan.” Fluition members have spent huge amounts of time talking to actual patients, nurse users, and business developers in order to understand every angle involved in the process of integrating the Stratus X1 into ICUs.

Their first product, Stratus X1, an electric sit-to-stand device, was born out of an engineering project at Grand Valley State University. The project came from a specific need within the medical community. The sponsor, two intensive care unit (ICU) nurses, and physical therapists came to Fluition founder Christopher’s class with a solution request. They explained that the current sit-to-stand devices, which are being used in the ICU to help recovering patients, are uncomfortable, hard to use, non-rehabilitating, and feared by patients.

After finding so much success in winning both the Michigan Collegiate Innovation Prize (MCIP) and the MWest Challenge, Fluition continued to rework their prototype. Since their sit-to-stand device was inspired from a classroom assignment, they initially set out to create a product that fulfilled the requirements. However, during the design process, the Fluition team became heavily invested in their product’s ability to help others, leading them to refine their prototype. Now on the third prototype, Stratus X1, Prototype 1.3, they are beginning to focus on the smaller details. After each prototype, they again act as sponges to receive as much feedback as possible and work that feedback into the next model.

With no background in medicine or medical devices, Christopher said, “At the beginning, we had no idea what we were doing.” However, the feeling did not last long and the team began cranking out preliminary idea after idea. In their initial ideation session, the team thought to look at engineering solutions that they already knew of from their own personal experiences.They thought about redesigning the device to use a balloon, a crane, or even a tilt-table. During these initial processes, Fluition team members settled on the model of a regular chair that harnesses the patient at the pelvis.

Christopher said that Fluition’s next steps involve completing a limited clinical trial and obtaining FDA approval for clinical testing. Once they reach that point, they will be searching for major investors to support their full-scale production of their product. She hopes that these tasks will be completed by Summer 2015. One could argue that Christopher’s being quite optimistic with this timeline, and she would agree, offering up this encouraging advice to fellow designers and students: “Always be optimistic.”

Landing on this initial idea occurred after extensive brainstorming, pages and pages of research, and, as simple as it sounds, talking to people. Although the empathy phase of design-thinking is the second step of the process, Fluition constantly reverted back to this model to assess their work.

Kathryn Christopher

Bachelor of Science in Product Design and Manufacturing Engineering


Profile for Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation

NEU: Design Thinking  

NEU: Design Thinking