New prototype of Flowsure gets innovation into the clinic

November 30, 2023

How does valorisation work in a clinical setting? And how do you get an innovative idea to a patient’s bed? We spoke with Tom Brouwer, Resident Cardiology at Amsterdam UMC, about Flowsure: an automated urine production monitor that indicates real-time how much a patient urinates, a vital indicator of the patient’s condition. Tom was a participant at the Demonstrator Lab, winner of AmSIA 2021 and jury member of the AmSIA 2023. We asked him for an update on Flowsure and his reflections on his innovation journey thus far…

What was it that kick-started the idea to develop Flowsure?

The development of the automated urine production monitor started when Tom Brouwer was doing his residency in Internal Medicine at the Amsterdam UMC.

“There, I noticed that essential information on urine production of patients was often not available. Which is a major clinical frustration for me and many other doctors. The information is lacking because it’s very laborious for nurses to check the urine production every hour. When I wanted to order an automated urine monitor online, there was nothing available. So, I decided to make one.”

“The first prototype was made by one of the hospital’s engineers and was made of components that we had simply bought online. After assembly, we had a fully functional prototype of Flowsure, which really helped to get the idea across to other people.”

Going from you first prototype, what happened next?

“When we were working on our first prototype, we submitted Flowsure for the AmSIA awards in 2021. We used our first protype to demonstrate the idea. Winning the award led to a IXA press release which gained coverage on the Radio, where I was interviewed. I took the opportunity to reach out to interested companies to discuss the commercialization of Flowsure.” Tom continues: “A Dutch company got in contact with us and we are now discussing how to make Flowsure available for our hospital and potentially hospitals worldwide!”

What are the most innovative objectives of Flowsure?

“The goal of Flowsure is efficient patient safety. Efficiency means that the device fully automates your production registration. The device will take over all the work from the nurse and will automatically both register urine production and send it to the patient’s medical record. This information is accessible to everyone involved in the patient’s care, including doctors like myself.”

“The second safety measure involves improving patient monitoring. When you consistently log health data, you gain a clearer picture of your patients’ well-being. Our goal is to improve patient monitoring effectively.”

How is IXA contributing to your innovation?

“Our business developer from IXA is closely involved and in contact with the aforementioned Dutch company in order to get all the contracts in place. We email on a daily basis. It’s actually a very simple technology that’s behind the innovation. But to make a device that really works well, is completely safe in use (meets all the regulations) and has the appropriate software, requires a lot of work with the right partners. That’s really the 95% of the work of the project: to get it right.”

“Our business developer is also closely involved in applying for new grants in order to finance our research. Recently, the NWO Demonstrator grant was awarded to us. Because of the Demonstrator grant, we now have a full-time engineer working on the project and a second prototype could be created. This prototype meets all the regulations, so that it is suitable for use in clinical care.”

What are the next steps to take?

“Early 2024, we want to start testing the second prototype with actual patients. We will first test Flowsure for one patient and then we’ll do a clinical study to demonstrate that it works. Of course, there may arise some technical issues during the clinical study that need to be solved within the prototype. Our goal is for the hardware to get ready to go into production. The requisite software may still take some more work.”

Any tips for future clinical innovators? Any other reflections?

“If you think you have a good idea or a simple solution to a common problem, just go for it and get started. Because getting started often requires less funding than you would expect. Our first prototype was funded by ourselves, simply because we wanted to tackle something. There wasn’t an overwhelming amount of money needed to actually develop a proof of concept.”

“In the beginning there was quite a lot of criticism on the idea of Flowsure, mainly because it was so simple that it couldn’t be protected via intellectual property. Ultimately, we are able to solve a problem that improves patient care and hospital care, without intellectual property. I hope that the support structure for these types of innovative ideas will grow stronger. Because I think that’s our task as a university hospital to also work in the areas where there’s no intellectual property.”

Take a look at the video showcasing Flowsure!