We talked recently about how diabetes is part of a much larger chronic illness community, and that's a strength we don't often tap into. Sometimes innovations that can help us PWDs (people with diabetes) come from folks dealing with other conditions too -- like a small Minneapolis, MN, firm called Visual Medical, that was formed about two years ago based on one woman's family ordeal.
Her name is Rachael Jacques and she grew up with a younger brother, Luke, who is now 25 and has been living with type 1 diabetes since the age of 5. Her other brother, Aaron, was severely handicapped after a near-fatal episode of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Now a wife and mom of three, Rachael was introduced to several more illnesses when her husband was diagnosed with lymphoma a few years ago and her oldest son, Carter, was diagnosed with autism, asthma, neurological tics, and Graves disease.
To say Rachael is a veteran caregiver is an understatement! Along with a friend who's a registered nurse, Rachel launched Visual Medical in 2011 to provide unique products to help manage a wide range of chronic illnesses, including diabetes. And now, after two years of planning, their company is about ready to release its first product, called Tartoos. Designed as a temporary tattoo grid that helps you track injection sites, the concept kind of reminds us of something Roche offered a few years back but has since faded away. Really great concept, though!
Rachael took some time recently to talk with us at the 'Mine, and and we're pleased to feature her here as part of our Small But Mighty series profiling companies inspired by personal experience with chronic conditions:
DM) What inspired you to launch your own company?
RJ) Visual Medical is a culmination of all my experiences with chronic disease management, both personally and professionally. The development of the company and the product have been slow over the past two years due to the fact that my husband was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma, so his care and management of our family -- which also includes our three boys -- took up the majority of my time. All the hours we spent in the hospital gave me plenty of time for self-reflection and the perspective to embrace how I wanted to use this extremely difficult circumstance to help others. It was then I knew I wanted try to make the journey of chronic disease management easier for patients. During this time, we have been working on incorporation of our company, building a team, specific design and manufacturing decisions, packaging and marketing approaches regarding our first product.
You're just launching your first product, Tartoos... What exactly are they, and how did you come up with the concept?
Tartoosâ„¢ ("targeted tattoos") was really one of those "ah-ha" moments as I was driving my car one morning and was reflecting back on my experiences as a health educator. I was brainstorming about more effective ways to communicate the enormity of health-related information to individuals coping with chronic disease management, particularly diabetes -- and the concept for Tartoos was born!
Tartoos is an injection management system that aids in injection medication education, administration, rotation and tracking. One Tartoos temporary tattoo grid will contain 24 images allowing for multiple-day usage, minimizing the "work" of injection site recognition. Each Tartoo image designates an available injection site for use and provides spacing of injection targets an inch apart to avoid overuse of the site and promote proper healing of the skin tissue. The Tartoos process starts with the application of a temporary tattoo grid containing images of the patient's choice applied to the area of the body where injections will occur. Tartoos tattoos images are a quarter of an inch in diameter and clearly identify a viable injection site. However, they are small enough that removal is easy.
So how would one use them?
After the patient adheres the Tartoo grid to their skin, they identify the image spot that will be their injection target, and they use an antiseptic wipe to remove the Tartoo tattoo, disinfecting the skin preparing it for medication administration. Injection is then given at the site after removal of the tattoo. Tartoos only need to be applied every 3-5 days so one doesn't have to concentrate on injection site rotation every time medication is administered.
What are the images on these tiny tattoos?
We currently have three designs available: robots, flowers, and a Medicon design that's more suited for adults. But we're encouraging our customers to contact us with new ideas for images that we could add to our product line in the future! We also have a Tartoos temporary tattoo grid for pump users, the spacing and number of Tartoos images is adjusted to better fit the needs of those who utilize pumps.
How do you hope Tartoos can help people with diabetes and their caregivers?
With the enormity of complex information patients and their caregivers are inundated with when diabetes is diagnosed, it is our hope that Tartoos can help make disease management easier from the very beginning. The current educational tools used to teach injection site rotation leave something to be desired. Tartoos is an easy to understand tool, providing a concrete, crystal clear "roadmap" for injection placement, which facilitates proper injection site rotation. The wonderful thing is that every person involved in the patient's care will know exactly where to place the next injection — the guesswork is eliminated!
By using Tartoos as both the educational and functional everyday tool for injection site management, we believe all sorts of great things will happen. Compliance will increase, continuity of care will become easier and patients will hopefully feel empowered. We also want to give patients the opportunity to think about one aspect of their disease management less often.
Lastly, as our offering of Tartoos images grows there is a place for a little whimsy, fun and maybe silliness when patients select the Tartoos temporary tattoo grid of their choice.
Did your brother living with diabetes have any input in the product design?
Yes! One part of Tartoos product development that has been so much fun for me is getting feedback and input from my brother Luke. In fact, his lovely and talented girlfriend has designed many of the Tartoos images and marketing artwork for us. Luke and I have had many conversations regarding the important continued need for creative, fun and fresh approaches to diabetes management and education. He was also a Tartoos model in the early stages of our marketing material!
Tell us about the launch, and when and where people buy these temporary tattoo grids.
In December, we started to reach out to the community of parents and families who are managing life with diabetes and ran the concept of Tartoos by them. We had such an overwhelming positive response and deep interest for where Tartoos could be purchased that we decided to go into production immediately! We knew our blog would no longer be sufficient and thus decided to launch a new website that will have Tartoos available for direct purchase.
We have settled on a price point of $12.95 for four Tartoos site management grids. Our website can be found at myvisualmedical.com, and we expect to start selling them today (May 1, 2013).
Any other plans for future products?
My business partner and I do have plans for other products; our wheels are constantly turning with new product ideas. For now though, we have our hands full with launching Tartoos. The past few months have been busier than we had ever anticipated — to see the interest continue to build for Tartoos has been really exciting!
Finally, since you've been living in a sea of chronic conditions for most of your life, do you have some advice to share with other caregivers?
Empower yourself. Get your questions answered. Your thoughts, fears and opinions are valid and important in regards to self-care or care of a loved one. Find your voice and know that it is the duty of medical staff to hear you.
Allow yourself to be human. Let the emotions from dealing personally with a chronic illness or from the task of being a caregiver come without judgement. Feel sad, angry, resentful and tired. Assign "hope-keepers" with the primary task of safeguarding your hope in particularly hard times. I had a number of these individuals when my husband was diagnosed with cancer. I knew I could call them on the phone at midnight bleary-eyed, sobbing and they would help me see my way to the morning.
Perfection is an unattainable goal. There are too many things that are out of our control. You will never be a flawless caregiver or able to manage an illness without faltering. Give yourself the space to be OK with that and do a mental checklist of all the hundreds of care-related tasks you do so well and lovingly.
Look for a silver lining or have the willingness to embrace one if it is presented to you. This does not minimize the downright difficulty of the situation, but provides a breath, a place to gain perspective and strength to face another day.
Thanks for the great idea, Rachael! Sounds like these temporary tattoo sheets could be of good use in the Diabetes Community and beyond. We'll be interested to see how they resonate with patients!