There's always been a certain ickiness to a community pen.
Whether tethered to a tiny chain at the bank or attached to a clipboard at the office of your dentist or doctor, dozens of strangers touch that pen every day. Some have been known to nervously nibble on that same pen; others prefer to use it as an ear-scratcher.
The coronavirus has brought awareness to the germy flaw of the community pen. But Stark County ophthalmologist Brian Wind had already been working for 10 years on an idea to clean up the community pen's act.
Wind invented the Steri-Write — a device marketed as the world's first and only touchless pen sanitizer. It uses UV-C germicidal LED light rays to kill pathogens causing bacterial and viral infections.
The first 20 are due to roll off the line at Momentum Manufacturing in Provo, Utah, this week; an initial batch of 1,000 will follow. The advance order sale price is $850 per unit.
"It seems like a lot of money off the bat," said Wind, an ophthalmic surgeon who specializes in cataract and laser vision eye surgery and serves as president of The Eye Clinic.
However, Wind pointed out Steri-Write is ideal for medical office settings — such as The Eye Clinic offices in North Canton and Perry Township. The device, he said, is more cost-efficient in the long run than manually cleaning pens, or providing a new pen to every patient.
"I'd noticed my pediatrician colleagues had two waiting rooms; one for sick patients and one for well visits, which is a great idea," Wind said. "But they all were using the same pens."
That's not such a great idea.
"I knew there had to be a better way," Wind said.
More than a decade ago, he told his wife, Lisa, he was going to invent a solution.
He'd never invented anything before.
But, as an eye doctor, he had published research. And like many in his field, he was always fond of working with and trying out new gadgets. So, he did have that going for him.
The 10-plus years journey has been eventful, as Wind acquired four patents and recently got a fifth; developed prototypes; worked with the nonprofit JumpStart, Stark State College and others to develop a business strategy; and then in January he attended the Consumer Electronics Show convention in Las Vegas, hosted by the Consumer Technology Association and touted as the largest global stage for innovation.
Along the way, the Louis A. Stokes Cleveland VA laboratory tested Steri-Write and found it 99.9% effective at killing common bacteria and viruses found on community pens. The results were published in the American Journal of Infection Control earlier this year.
An unrelated study two years ago by insuranceQuote Inc. solidified the premise that doctor's offices, specifically clipboard pens, are very germy. They contain more germs — which can cause everything from food poisoning to pneumonia — than any other items in the office.
By swabbing surfaces for bacteria counts, it found pens contained nearly 8 million colony-forming units per square inch. For perspective, pens are 46,158 times dirtier than the average toilet seat.
The Steri-Write is about 10 inches tall, 11 inches wide and 5 inches deep. A dirty pen is placed into the top of the plastic-cased device, which can hold 14 pens, so a sterile pen is always ready to be dispensed from the bottom.
The guts of the machine include the powerful UV-C germicidal LED lights to kill pathogens. As each pen cycles through the sanitizing chamber, it's exposed to the exact amount of radiation needed.
According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, UV-C radiation is a known disinfectant for air, water, and nonporous surfaces and it's been used for decades to reduce the spread of bacteria, such as tuberculosis.
The FDA notes such radiation may be effective in inactivating the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is the virus that causes COVID-19. It also stated there is limited current data on the wavelength, dose, and duration of UV-C radiation required to inactivate SARS-CoV-2.
The Steri-Write operates on electricity, but can also be powered by batteries for remote locations. Wind said each device is expected to last five years minimum before needing replaced.
"It's efficient and eco-friendly," he said.
Before COVID-19, the strategy for deploying Steri-Write was from the "inside out," meaning its use would develop from within businesses, such as physician practices. Wind said it's now the opposite, due to widespread global awareness of coronavirus and efforts to combat it.
"Our vision was for the product to be successful ... we had to change behavior," he explained.
Wind also is working on a plan that will allow the device to sterilize surgical markers. Those are the markers that surgeons use to write on skin and body parts of patients, prior to operations.
Wind estimated such markers are used in as many as 50 million surgical procedures a year in the U.S.
To learn more, or to place an order, visit: steri-write.com.
This article was posted on November 22, 2020 by The Repository.