Hospital demand drives EHOB's Indy expansion

February 26, 2009 -- Indianapolis Star

EHOB Packaging
MEDICAL NICHE: Employee Maria Carrion packs waffle cushions at Indianapolis-based EHOB's Near-Westside facility. The company added 17 jobs last month in response to rising demand for its products as hospitals work to limit the incidence of bed sores at their facilities. - ALAN PETERSIME / The Star
Dr. Spahn
Head and neck surgeon James Spahn founded EHOB in 1985. - ALAN PETERSIME / The Star
With pressure on hospitals to reduce the number of patients who acquire bed sores, an Indianapolis business is poised to see demand for its products boom.

"We're kind of busting at the seams," said Ken Turro, EHOB's executive vice president of operations, as he walked through his company's bustling 45,000-square-foot production plant just west of Downtown Indianapolis.

EHOB is among an array of medical businesses in a fast- growing health-care niche filling the demand for products designed to prevent or reduce the prevalence of bed sores, which are among the most common hospital-acquired conditions.

The company's vinyl mattress overlays and seat covers are inflated with air and feature holes and dimples to help reduce pressure on the body from sitting or lying.

Medicare and private insurers, including Indianapolis-based WellPoint, have stopped providing reimbursement to hospitals for costs related to hospital- acquired conditions such as bed sores. Also called pressure ulcers, they are considered one of the most common and preventable medical errors.

Such attention to bed sores has helped boost EHOB's sales by around 20 percent annually in recent years. The company sells mainly to U.S. hospitals, and sales are now more than $20 million, according to Dr. James Spahn, EHOB founder and chief executive.

To handle that sort of growth, about a month ago EHOB added a third shift, running from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. The expansion includes the addition of 17 jobs, bringing its total work force to about 118.

EHOB does all of its manufacturing in Indiana and employs about 16 people for package-preparation work at nearby Goodwill Industries.

Its products, which are air-inflated, typically sell for less than $100. A Waffle Mattress Overlay designed to treat pressure ulcers of varying severity sells for $68.62, according to EHOB's Web site. The boot-shaped heel elevator costs $47.

"It's very valuable, and it certainly does prevent skin breakdown," said Jan Powers, clinical nurse specialist for the intensive care unit at St. Vincent Indianapolis.

According to EHOB literature, St. Vincent's Intensive Care Quality Improvement Committee found that use of EHOB's mattress overlays led to a decrease in patient skin breakdown by two-thirds. Hospital spokesman Johnny Smith said St. Vincent uses EHOB overlays as well as rival products.

In fact, EHOB faces plenty of competition from bigger companies such as Texas-based Kinetic Concepts and Batesville-based Hill-Rom.

Spahn, a head and neck surgeon, founded his family-controlled company in 1985 with a product designed to keep a patient's head elevated after surgery.

Now, as more attention is paid to preventing bed sores, Spahn sees his company in a strong position to compete against larger rivals.

"The biggest thing at the hospital is the need to figure out how to cover every surface," he said.
By Daniel Lee, Indianapolis Star Business Reporter