• WisBusiness

Friday, October 24, 2014

MaryBeth Matzek: Doctor deploys technology to improve runners' safety


By MaryBeth Matzek
An avid runner as well as an emergency room physician, Mark Westfall thought something was missing when it came to marathons and other extreme athletic events: a safe, secure way to access a runner's contact information in case of an emergency.

Westfall, who works in the emergency departments at both Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah and ThedaCare Medical Center-New London, decided to come up with his own solution to the problem – developing a QR code that safely encrypts a runner's contact information – and if the racer chooses -- additional medical information. The QR code is then printed on the runner's bib.

"Having performed CPR on individuals who have collapsed at the end of or during a marathon as well as treating several individuals injured from triathlons, I knew that having immediate access to emergency health information can only benefit any participant," says Westfall, who in addition to running marathons and participating in triathlons also serves on medical teams for events he's not involved in.

Westfall came up with the idea after meeting with John Ernst and Scott Francis from Snap Lab Media in Appleton and learning about QR codes. He then worked with the duo and Steve Luebke to bring his idea to reality.

The technology -- call SynChart -- was utilized during the Cellcom Marathon in Green Bay last spring and the Fox Cities Marathon, which was held in September in Appleton. After seeing success at those races, Westfall is now looking to take his idea to larger races across the country. Westfall says the key to his medical QR code is its three levels of security. Anyone who accesses the information is recorded and once the race is done, the codes are turned off so if someone finds a bib after a race, she can't pick it up and scan it to get a runner's information.

"I like to tell participants that even the person who owns and wears the bib are not able to access the secure data without the unique and time limited security code," Westfall says. At the very least, the QR code provides emergency response officials – and they have to tap in a special code to access the information – with a runner's name, address, phone number and emergency contact. In addition, participants at the Cellcom Marathon and Fox Cities Marathon were invited via emails to go online and fill in additional information, such as allergies, medical conditions and any other important medical information.

"That was unique and a first," Westfall says.

This isn't the first time Westfall has waded into the business realm. While in medical school, he developed, patented and brought the CPR Microshield to market. The microshield is a CPR barrier that helps protect the rescuer and features a one-way valve.

"Now as then, there are two factors that make it possible and this is true of any successful startup/ entrepreneur. You must have passion and a great team. We had that for the CPR Microshield and we have it for SynChart and RunnersHealth.com, a related website we developed," Westfall says. "My team is very flexible and have real jobs as well, so we meet on weekends and at off times such as late in the evening, however, we all share the vision and the passion for what we can accomplish. The passion is infectious."

During the next few months, Westfall plans to demonstrate SynChart at two upcoming race management meetings and hasn't seen any other companies offering the same kind of technology. He's hoping SynChart will catch on and that larger races will adopt it.

"When talking with people about SynChart at runners' expos, most couldn't believe this (the QR code technology) wasn't being used already and hope the service is provided at other races," Westfall says.

Recycler grows

Dynamic Recycling Inc. plans to open a new Onalaska facility that may eventually create 110 jobs.

Dynamic Recycling, a national electronics re-marketing, recycling and scrap purchasing company, is relocating its operations from La Crosse to the old ATK Ammunition plant in Onalaska, which has been closed since 2012. The company is spending more than $1.5 million to renovate and upgrade the facility, which will open early next year.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. authorized up to $360,000 in Economic Development Tax Credits for the company over the next three years. The actual amount of tax credits awarded will depend upon the number of jobs created during that time.

On the move

Werner Electric Supply Co., a provider of automation, electrical and data communication products, is moving its company's headquarters and distribution center from Neenah to the nearby Town of Grand Chute.

The company says the move will allow it grow its business and increase employment; about 200 people work at its Neenah facility currently. The new building will open in 2016.

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.

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