D R Burton Boosts its Presence with NC-Developed Medical Device

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Jay Annis was frustrated. 

Early in his career as a certified registered nurse anesthetist, the Farmville native witnessed -- on too many occasions -- the difficulty of inserting breathing tubes in some surgery patients. He recalls one particular patient who had to be rescheduled for an elective surgical procedure because initial intubation attempts were unsuccessful. “We could see where the tube needed to go, but we couldn’t make it go there,” Annis explained.

Jay Annis
Jay Annis
CEO Dennis Cook
CEO Dennis Cook

Out of his frustration, he designed a better mousetrap -- the J-Wand Semi-Rigid Intubating Stylet. D R Burton Healthcare Products, a medical device company with operational and manufacturing headquarters in Farmville, built it.

The connection was a bit fortuitous. Annis was looking for a company to develop the J-Wand at about the same time D R Burton announced plans to invest more than $2 million in its North Carolina manufacturing facility. So he contacted D R Burton CEO Dennis Cook, they had lunch, and from there the J-Wand design developed into a workable product. It was launched this past September and has received positive reviews from clinicians who have used it. “It’s interesting how things work out,” Annis said.

The J-Wand, with its flexible introducer tip for easier insertion and an anatomically inspired curved stainless-steel design, is made for patients for whom intubation is difficult. It speeds the placement of the endotracheal tube into the windpipe, which is particularly important since patients normally aren’t breathing during the procedure. And it’s less likely to damage the trachea, so it’s safer. Unlike other products on the market, the J-Wand also has an oxygen port that can provide a direct source of oxygen during the intubation process.

D R Burton's J-Wand Intubating Stylet
D R Burton's J-Wand Intubating Stylet. -- D R Burton photos

The disposable single-use product can be deployed in a wide range of medical environments -- anesthesiology, emergency departments, intensive care units, EMS services, and non-hospital settings where airway management is necessary.

The benefits of the J-Wand haven’t gone unnoticed. In early April, the product received an Innovative Technology contract from Vizient, the largest member-driven healthcare performance improvement company in the United States. The contract was awarded on the recommendation of hospital respiratory care experts who serve on one of Vizient’s member-led councils. 

Vizient’s membership includes academic medical centers, pediatric facilities, community hospitals, integrated health delivery networks and non-acute health care providers with approximately $100 billion in total annual purchasing power.

“Hospitals and providers are continuously looking for innovative solutions that demonstrate an ability to enhance clinical care or patient safety, and that improve an organization’s care delivery and business model,” said Debbie Archer, director of procurement and leader of the Vizient Innovative Technology program for suppliers. “After a full review of the J-Wand Semi-Rigid Intubating Stylet, Vizient’s member council agreed this solution offers an incremental benefit over other products, and recommended it for an innovative technology contract.”

D R Burton's Farmville facility
D R Burton's Farmville facility.

D R Burton CEO Cook said the recognition of the J-Wand by Vizient “is particularly rewarding for us. It validates our efforts to develop medical devices that provide direct benefit to patients and extra value to our partners and consumers.” 

The company is a family-owned business founded by clinicians. It has approximately 20 North Carolina-based employees, and has used the hands-on clinical experience of its staff to develop the products it manufactures and markets for clinical use. 

Jay Annis is a good example. He now works for D R Burton as vice president of anesthesia. But he has continued his job as a practicing nurse anesthetist in the Farmville area, where he’s on the lookout for other product opportunities that will improve healthcare delivery.  

Bryant Haskins, NCBiotech Writer
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