Ashley Vos is the Durban based MD of Abela Africa Medical, a company that holds exclusive distribution rights for overseas businesses wanting a foothold in Africa.

Vos and co-director Dr Gareth Jermyn are behind the local launch of an innovative product that promises to revolutionize medical practice.

The VeinViewer is vascular access technology, an imaging device that allows non-invasive, real-time digital projection of a patient’s veins on the surface of the skin.

This spares patients huge trauma and allows medical personnel to save invaluable time finding veins for drips and blood draws. It also saves money on wasted needles, medication and other such consumable intravenous equipment.

The device retails for between R60 000 and R190 000, depending on specifications and Vos says the saving potential is “enormous”.

Local and global studies show the potential saving over a 5-year period in consumables alone can run into millions. For example, the latest trial run in Durban showed that with a hospital investment of just under R1million the projected saving over a five year period is R10 million, in consumables alone, not to mention patient outcomes.


Joseph Wolf spoke to Vos about Abela and VeinViewer

031business: How long have you been in business and what projects has the firm been involved in prior to VeinViewer?

We established Abela Africa Medical in 2012, with a view to identifying the latest and best global medical products available and then to partner with manufacturers to bring these to Africa. VeinViewer remains our primary focus. We do have other niche products that we are working on.

 031business: Your partner Gareth learnt about VeinViewer three years ago when he was searching for a solution to help his wife with vascular access problems. VeinViewer was developed by US based medical technologies company, ChristieMed, over 12 years ago. What rights do you have over the product in Africa?

We hold the exclusive distribution agreement with ChristieMed to supply VeinViewer into Africa. VeinViewer is the only vascular access technology in the world that offers pre and post access benefits using this patented technology.  

 031business: Exactly how does it work?

VeinViewer projects harmless near-infrared light on to the skin that is absorbed by blood but reflected by surrounding tissue. VeinViewer then captures that information via a camera, processing it through a computer to create and then project a full field digital real time image of the patient’s vein pattern directly on the skin using LED. Such technology is a great aid for clinicians and nurses to identify the best vein options for tests and medical procedures for any patient, regardless of age, skin tone or size. There is no harmful laser, heating or radiation or risk to clinician or patient.

 031business: How will the application help medical personnel?

We now able to identify the best vein for an IV line or a blood draw, which saves time and gives the clinician sight of what they have not seen before, thus our technology, with their skill, ensures a more efficient, safer and more accurate procedure. For the first time images of veins can be included in patient records electronically. VeinViewer holds another global first in that the technology can capture the image of a patient’s veins. This would be useful, for example, to a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy and who requires ongoing management of the condition of their veins. It’s also useful in potential medical-legal claims regarding damage and vascular access complications. Now a nurse can report how many times they failed to access the veins, which is not typically reported by nursing staff, and as such there are no real stats on how many failed IV attempts the average patient has. Nobody wants to talk about what is not working, and with previously no solution to the problem, bad treatment of veins has not been reported on. The improved patient outcomes and associated cost reduction in waste is very easy to understand.

 031business: How many units have you placed and are they predominantly in private or state hospitals and facilities?

We are working across all medical facilities. Our biggest implementation to date has been at a state hospital, where the time and cost reduction and best practice were recognized by the decision makers. As the product has a 5 year warranty and training program, we remain close to all the facilities and offer ongoing training and support. Being Durban based, the majority of our units to date have been placed in Durban hospitals with close to 40 VeinViewers having been implemented in the last 18 months. We are currently involved in negotiations nationally with several of the private hospital groups, state departments, as well as outpatient centers and private practitioners. The early adopters have been very pleased with the outcomes, and we are now seeing a huge take-up as they enter the next budget cycle. We have also placed units in JHB and CT.

 031business: The product sounds fantastic. Have you made a success of its introduction in Africa; and if so, how do you determine that success?

We are personally involved in every single delivery, implementation and training. We measure ourselves by seeing the benefits of improved patient outcomes as well as being able to continuously monitor wastage. In the private healthcare sector medical aid currently pays for many of the consumables used for IV access and blood draws whilst a patient is in hospital. VeinViewer is proven to help reduce the number of failed attempts and therefore reduce the money being wasted. The knock on effects of the reduction in medical waste, and associated risks and costs are another reason the product provides a return on investment within months of implementation. The challenge is to get the clinical staff to confirm to management and financial staff that there is a need for a solution. It is to facilitate the conversation between clinical staff who are fully aware of the “unreported” failed attempts and the decision makers, without it reflecting negatively on those clinical staff. There have been so many revolutionary changes in medical science in the last say 50 years, yet, until now, we were still just sticking a needle in without being able to see what was really happening. We are forming strategic partnerships into Africa, and whilst we intended to firmly establish the VeinViewer into SA before venturing into Africa, we are very pleased that we implemented the first VeinViewer in Nigeria three months ago.