How MustER wants to close gaps in healthcare and save lives
For many Americans, 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic marked the first time that a shortage of hospital beds was something to be concerned about. But outside the States, in areas with active military conflict or in rural and impoverished populations, a lack of space for care is an old and ongoing problem. With that in mind, central Ohio startup MustER is working to create a mobile, quickly assembling space that could serve as an emergency room or ICU in scenarios ranging from a pandemic-style outbreak to natural-disaster response.
“MustER was born out of need and necessity as COVID-19 exposed a lot of our deficiencies when delivering healthcare in a pandemic-type situation,” said Al Burzynski, co-founder and chief executive strategy officer. “Early in the pandemic, there was a bed shortage. We started realizing that if patients couldn’t be seen at their locations, how are they going to receive the care they need? In central Ohio, agencies came up with the idea to use the Columbus Convention Center as an alternate site. But the Convention Center isn’t really set up to handle the airborne nature of COVID-19. With MustER, we’ve created a solution that allows us to deliver medical care anywhere.”
For Burzynski, an Army veteran who regularly volunteers with medical and veteran organizations, MustER’s mission is as crucial to his involvement as its potential. He said he wouldn’t be involved if it weren’t for the company’s potential. He doesn’t just see it as a strong business idea, he thinks it can change the way we see emergency medical treatment and close gaps of care.
“Our mission is important,” he said. “I grew up in rural Kansas in an economically challenged area, so I understand the inequities of healthcare. And as a taxpayer, it really makes a difference to me that we use our money wisely. We want to make a difference and save lives, not only during COVID but into the future. We want to be part of the recovery and we want to ensure that others have access to quality healthcare because we’re all in this together.”
MustER creates custom-engineered modular sites that feature an ICU that can be hermetically sealed, air filtration to control infectious diseases, 24 to 250 beds depending on size, secure sleeping pods, solar and wind generators, an HVAC system and a sanitary sewer system. Ultimately, MustER is designed to save lives. The company’s broad mission is to extend the “golden hour,” defined as the period of time following a traumatic injury during which treatment could prevent death or even more serious injury.
“The technology is there,” said Burzynski. “We’re now able to bring healthcare to the people. It’s not about relying on brick-and-mortar facilities. How realistic is it to build onto an existing hospital? Instead, we can bring the solution there, provide extra beds at a fraction of the cost. And moving forward, our product can integrate into emergency management agencies.”
As they continue to bring their idea to life, the MustER team has worked closely with State of Ohio agencies to grow their groundbreaking concept. They received funded technical support from the Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence at The Ohio State University as part of the Department of Defense’s Supply Base Resilience and Diversification Program and participated in GDI Partners’ TRIAD pitch event, where they were given advice on how to pitch to military organizations, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Some of the foundations of MustER’s creation comes from the team’s background in military. The U.S. Department of Defense needed a mobile solution to more efficiently treat soldiers, and brainstorms on that topic led to the MustER plan. They’re now working toward a prototype and raising capital to be able to put the idea into motion. And though the project has expanded beyond military use, that background is still informing what the startup does.
“The Department of Defense typically supports three areas: warfighting, peacekeeping and humanitarian missions at home or abroad,” said Burzynski. “What we can provide with MustER can save the warfighter on the battlefield, but can also save civilians and their family members who are part of the community in a situation like the one we’re dealing with right now. We wanted to create a solution that could deliver healthcare that citizens expect while also being able to deliver it in rural communities and anywhere where the population cannot get to healthcare.”