Case Study: Medsalv

Creating a more sustainable health sector one hospital at a time

What started out as a project for his Masters of Engineering and Management, soon turned into an extraordinarily successful startup for entrepreneur, Oliver Hunt. Since entering the University of Canterbury’s Summer Startup programme in 2017, his simple yet innovative idea has been taking the health sector by storm. Introducing Medsalv: a Christchurch company working to eliminate the growing environmental and financial waste in New Zealand’s Healthcare Sector.

In order to reduce this waste, Medsalv uses a method called single-use device reprocessing. That is to say they take medical devices and subject them to specific processes to make them clinically safe and suitable for reuse, at a lower cost than the original. This results in the prevention of thousands of supposedly ‘single-use’ medical devices going to landfill after just one use. Their processes are not only environmentally sustainable, but also financially sustainable for hospitals as well, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars that can be put elsewhere in the healthcare system.

ThincLab has had the pleasure of working alongside Medsalv, aiding them in their startup journey.

“With the help of ThincLab and before that the University of Canterbury Centre for Entrepreneurship Summer Startup programme, we have been able to refine our business model and secure funding — and then in turn increase the amount of good we are doing.”

ThincLab has seen Medsalv experience incredible growth over the years, racking up many achievements along the way. This includes winning the “Going Circular” award at the Sustainable Business Network National Awards in 2019, for the best product stewardship scheme in the country that reduces cost, reduces waste, and benefits the local economy. Today, Medsalv is providing services to surgical hospitals of all sizes from Whangarei to Timaru, including the largest private and public hospitals in the country. What’s more, the hospital staff back them and are incredibly supportive of their work. Oliver mentions they often receive positive feedback from clinical staff they work with such as, “I feel like this is the first time we have started a sustainability initiative that is actually making a difference.”

Pictured: Oliver Hunt (far left) at the Sustainable Business Network National Awards 2019

Many people may question why this initiative has not been thought of before, especially with the current social climate surrounding environmental concerns. Oliver believes visibility is the answer to this. Unlike plastic bags, which we used to come across every day before they were eliminated, most medical devices are out of the spotlight. For example, patients often don’t usually see single-use devices because they are under anaesthetics or focused elsewhere when they are being used.

“We’re the only business doing what we do in the Southern Hemisphere, and we genuinely create material cost and waste savings for all of our customers.”

Medsalv take pride in their quality processes and make a conscious effort to be completely transparent in all that they do by involving their clients in the manufacturing process — a quality that is priceless in today’s business environment. Due to the novelty of their business model to the health system in New Zealand, which (in public) has 20 different DHBs of varying sizes in charge of delivering care, Oliver explains that their “largest challenge remains to be understanding the multitude of different processes at play in each organisation and then working with these to implement sustainable change.”

Being in the healthcare industry, the COVID-19 epidemic has only brought to light the utility of their business-model, as it is becoming increasingly important to have more sustainable healthcare processes. As a healthcare supplier, work continued for Medsalv over the lockdown and Medsalv managed to uphold their strict working standards while practicing under COVID-19 guidelines. Oliver mentions, “one thing we found really useful was our systems and processes which allowed our team to get on with their work without less face to face or person to person interaction, but without diminishing the value or quality of our work.”

The ThincLab team are excited by the staggering success Medsalv has experienced so far, and plans for going global are in the works. Medsalv are currently in contact with leading firms in America, discussing what their business processes might look like on a much bigger scale. Moving 5–10 years down the line, Oliver’s vision is as simple as this: “Sustainable Healthcare Delivered Worldwide, for less money.”