Dan Mahoney (gushi) wrote,
Dan Mahoney

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Open letter to KCI about the Acti-V.A.C

Dear KCI:

Your wound-vac products literally work miracles.  They close wounds in weeks that would otherwise take months, with fewer complications.  That said, I’m an engineer, and because I’ve had weeks to get intimately familiar with some of their shortcomings.  In the interest of a better product, I'd like to share some of them.


The software installed on the VAC is dirt simple for a patient to use, but in the interest of trying to track my own care, I’ve looked at some of the menus.  The UI is a bit strange.

  • Why is the option to switch between patient and clinician mode in the “Help” menu?

  • When I go to view therapy history, why do I only see alarms/errors that actually cause errors to stop, and not routine blockages.  I’d think, as a caregiver, I’d want to see how often a patient (especially a less tech-savvy one) is getting these issues.

  • Why is there no option to view average pressure over a time period, either as a “mark” in the log, or as a bar graph.  i.e. “100 percent of the time was at 125, versus time-averaged therapy at 20 percent, with 20 minutes at the desired level”.  Showing the clinician a score as to how effective the therapy was, with a simple percentage score is super-useful.

  • Worse still, there’s no simple “alarm history” button in patient mode, where I, as a patient, could say to my nurse “okay, this is what happened this morning”.

  • Putting an option in clinician mode where a clinician could note a dressing change, and perhaps the number of foam pieces used, or wound measurements, such that such things were shown in the export and logs, would be wonderful.


  • While this is technically a software function, I would really, really love to be able to see what the expected runtime is on my battery, since the unit doesn’t alert until it hits a critical level.

  • The charging plug for the vac is a nightmare.  In addition to being non-standard, and needlessly polarized, it pops out if you look at it funny.  You’ve added a velcro strip to hold it in place, but as I’ll note below, this is suboptimal.

  • Enabling an option, even in patient mode, that causes the unit to “chirp” every few minutes if unplugged would be nice.  The idea would be, I could press a “silence” button that would suppress that warning, but only until the unit were plugged back in again.  All other low-battery alarms would still be in place.  This would allow me to go out to a medical appointment with the unit in relative silence, but still be alerted if the plug had popped out via random motion.

Carrying case:

The case you guys give out is awful.  Period.  For maybe an extra dollar, here’s what I might do differently:

  • Instead of the permanently attached shoulder strap, add clips so it can be taken on/off the bag.  In addition to making it easier to manage when you are, as I am, mostly couchbound and just take the vac to go to the bathroom, it also would mean that when the hose/power cord/shoulder strap inevitably get tangled

  • The little velcro strip that holds the power cord in currently *only* works by opening the bag.  That is, if you’ve just gotten up to go to the bathroom, and come back and plug your vac in, you have to undo the velcro flap, reapply the strip, and re-close the bag.  To get up again, you have to undo the flap, undo the strip, re-close the bag.  Why wouldn’t you also put a velcro strip on the *outside* of the flap, so this could be a one-step process?

  • If I’m just at home anyway, why not put a velcro strip on the *back* of the bag, so I can velcro the flap in the open position.

  • Wearing my vac like a purse is one useful way of carrying it — I find it somewhat easy to tuck the excess tubing into a sweatpants pocket and mostly conceal it in public.  Supplying an extra strap so it could be worn, say, as a small backpack, or adding a rigid belt-loop so it could be worn on a belt (or perhaps, the shoulder strap for another bag could be put through it, so it’s one shoulder strap to manage, rather than two.

Anyway, these are just my thoughts.  I hope you find them useful and possibly insightful.  Thank you again for making a wonderful product which has definitely changed my life for the better.

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