In 2014, Dr. Amy Baxter, spoke at a TEDMED conference, about the consequences of pain. Dr. Baxter, an emergency pediatrician, observed how new practices cause the fear of needles to develop – a growing issue, she says, that has important public health implications. Recognizing the disconnect in how doctors cause pain to release pain, Dr. Baxter invented a device to fight needle phobia and provide drug-free pain relief, called Buzzy®.
Buzzy® has been used to block pain from over 32 million needle procedures and has been tried in over 27 independent clinical trials with positive results. Just like cool running water soothes a burn, Buzzy® uses a patented combination of cold and vibration to replace pain with temperature and movement. Dr. Baxter noted that the number of life-saving childhood injections have risen from 6 to over 30. Using needle pain management and distraction early on can prevent children from developing anxiety and a fear of needles later in life.
Quest Diagnostics has partnered with their company and licensed their CoolPulse™ technology to develop their own device, Quiggles, cousin of Buzzy®. More than 5,000 hospitals and clinics use Buzzy®, including the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who incorporate Buzzy® (an FDA Cleared, Class I device) into their pain management information for patients. As Buzzy® works even better for adults, patient advocate groups for arthritis, ITP, diabetes, oncology, MS, IVF and many others recommend the innovative device as well, for site reaction and needle pain.
As the founder of PainCareLabs (Personal Pain Control Solutions), Dr. Baxter has been named Wall Street Journal “Idea Person”, Most Innovative CEO of the Year by GA Bio, a Top 10 Disruptors in Medical Tech, and “Top Women in Tech to Watch” by Inc., and seen on Shark Tank. I got the chance to ask Dr. Baxter questions about her unprecedented device, her mission and the effectiveness of using Buzzy® over opioids for adults.
What was your mission when you started PainCareLabs?
Our mission has always been to eliminate unnecessary pain. Now our devices are used instead of opioids for injury or post-surgical pain, but as a pediatrician, I taught doctors to avoid procedural pain in children. It seemed ironic to take an oath to do no harm and then hurt kids just to make a procedure faster.
When my own son had a traumatic set of booster injections, I got determined to give parents a fast, reusable needle pain reliever, even when the nurse or doctor thought it didn’t matter. I discovered that ice and vibration were intensely effective at blocking needle pain, and in 2006 started a company to get an NIH SBIR grant to do the research and development on my prototype.
The same needle pain nerve transmits injury and surgery pain, where patients can use the CoolPulse technology for joint and hip pain, instead of drugs. When a colleague used Buzzy® to avoid opioids after knee surgery, I decided to devote full time to the company. I made our devices bigger and easy to use for adult pain, and now focus advocacy on teaching patients AND doctors more effective methods to relieve pain than opioids.
I saw that you were on Shark Tank. What was that experience like?
Hah! Shark Tank was a mental bungee jump! A terrifying leap of faith, followed by exhilaration. I had practiced my pitch standing on one leg, doing the backstroke, doing a handstand, in my underwear… every disruptive way I could so I’d be prepared if something through me off. When I pitched, I felt incredibly confident. I had memorized all the numbers, margins, and permutations of offers; I knew my company better than at any moment leading up to “Action!”
It was a different kind of stress than leading a trauma, but my mind was working in a similar way. The one possibility I hadn’t prepared for was Mr. Wonderful and Robert offering to BOTH be investors. I was so in the zone, I didn’t realize that offer was made until the last time I watched a rerun! It would have made our growth much faster. We’re at a good place now, but I really like and respect both of them, so it would have been worth doing. After I turned them down, I thanked them for how they’ve inspired and changed America by making entrepreneurship legitimate and cool.
What has been your biggest break yet?
I wouldn’t have undertaken the leap from practicing medicine if we hadn’t gotten an NIH Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant. The SBIR program funds research and development that will impact public health and has commercial potential. Because we got the funding, I felt ethically responsible to see the company through.
More importantly, I knew that a panel of independent scientists had determined that the idea of blocking pain with vibration and cold was worth the million+ the government invested. When you’re introducing a disruptive concept into the marketplace, it helps to have that knowledge in your back pocket.
Your entire staff is made up of entirely women. Was that a conscious decision?
I do believe women are great at startups – we see when our colleagues need a hand, and are perceptive at working together flexibly to accomplish goals. That said, it really wasn’t intentional. One of the women working with me is an RN – we saved a life together when we were doing procedural sedation, and when she got an MBA I stalked her until she came with the company. Our director of international business development is an attorney who needed more flexibility when her children were small – but has been with us for 9 years!
Now that we’re bigger, I’m untangling the net of support we give so that there is more direct accountability, and so we can focus more on growth. I have men on my board, and my sales team will have men as well – but it is really special having the team we have now.
What has been the best advice you’ve been given in regards to your company/inventing
The best advice for any entrepreneur came from my dad – never be too influenced by any one day. From the trenches, it’s hard to see the big picture, and the biggest risk for a company is the founder becoming overwhelmed and losing passion. As an inventor, good advice has been “If you’re not embarrassed by your first product, you went to market too late.” The tendency to want perfection can slow the progress of products to market. Better by far to put something useful but not perfect in circulation, and iterate based on consumer feedback.
To learn more about PainCareLabs visit their website and discover their expanded product line including their award-winning Buzzy for Shots, DuoTherm and VibraCool®, the FDA cleared tool to reduce opioid use and recovery pain. On March 8, Good Morning America will be doing a special “Deals and Steals” in honor of International Women’s Day. Products created by women will be featured with deals up to 50% off. Support the growth of women in business and the celebration of their achievements worldwide.