2020 was a robust year for EpiGuard. Despite challenges encountered during the pandemic, more than 4x the expected amount of EpiShuttle units were sold and that number is still growing. CEO Ellen Andersen and VP Marketing and External Affairs Hanne Børke-Fykse shared their experiences and reflected on a very different 2020.
Top photo: Keewatin Air
On one of the last days of 2019, 7 EpiShuttles of a total of 16 sold that year were sold in one day. We understood that something was going on but did not know what caused it. But it was a clear indication that 2020 would be different. Soon signals from China of the outbreak of an unknown virus materialized in requests and questions that we had not prepared for. We did not have the regulatory approval for China and did not know how to proceed. We connected with Norway Health Tech for advice.
We decided that the Chinese market was complex and difficult with a lot of uncertainties, so we concentrated on the European market. The first sales came from customers where the relationship was established, and where trust had been built. First the English NHS purchased, followed by NHS Scotland, North-Ireland, and Wales.
During the pandemic it was discovered that the North of Norway was not prepared well enough for such a situation, so the Air Force manned all their 330-stations with EpiShuttles. The Air Force used their communication channels demonstrating their way of work and adaptability, and the EpiShuttle was used and hence, given visibility. This gave us a lot of attention from other countries and units where we did not have contact before.
With the new purchases came challenges to deliver on time. The world shut down and we needed parts to assemble the products. When we faced these hurdles, we contacted Norway Health Tech and by using the network with help from Team Norway, we were able to open factories in Italy and the Czech Republic to supply the needed parts. This would not have been possible if not for the support from the international team at Norway Health Tech.
Another challenge was to go from physical to digital training. EpiShuttle is a physical product and of course the training had involved touching and trying. But the EpiGuard training team turned around quickly and made it work. The effort is not less than impressive.
« We do not deliver just a product, but the expertise and competence that is needed to use the product as well. When training has been provided, we ensure that the usage will be done safely and correctly for personnel and patients” Ellen Andersen, CEO
A customer story I would like to share is the feedback we got from the Peruvian police. Peru was hit hard by the pandemic and had to transport patients over the Andes to a place of treatment. They purchased the EpiShuttle to protect their team and patients. We got an e-mail from the coordinator Maria saying that thanks to the Epishuttle, their team had stayed out of quarantine, and remained healthy and in operation the whole time. It is motivating to hear stories like that, Ellen says.
We always say that we must train during peace time. All EpiShuttles that had been sold before 2020 were bought to be prepared if something happened. In 2020 we were certainly put to the test. Everyone that was open to doing things differently, to start using innovation, and what it involved, were more successful in handling a situation that no one has ever been in.
EpiShuttle has delivered. We have not had any incidents reported where it did not live up to the promises and for that we are both proud and thankful. The pandemic has made it possible for us to scale up, grow fast, and prove that we can meet high demand under pressure. We are now a robust company in the black, ready to look at new markets.
Being part of a community like Norway Health Tech is very important to us. It certainly helped us through difficult times in the early months of the pandemic. We can ask for advice and help, be part of programs and events (we have EU-funding thanks to Norway Health Tech), and expand our network. We know that by asking Norway Health Tech we get answers from people that see our success as their success. We are a part of something bigger.
We will always need safe ways to get contagious patients to a point of care with minimal risk for the patient and personnel. That is why we are here, closed Ellen.