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Business booms for Indy maker of ‘plug

Jan 21, 2024

A high-tech heart lab built by Hoosiers will soon be hoisted high into the air by crane and placed on the third-floor roof of a Massachusetts hospital. It's the biggest project ever for Indianapolis-based Modular Devices, which builds mobile and modular imaging labs in Indiana before trucking them around the country to solve some of the most challenging space issues for hospitals.

Boosted by a recent acquisition, the launch of a new segment of business and new bigger headquarters, Modular Devices says it's "just scratched the surface of what's out there."

The project to lift a cardiac lab—in four separate pieces—several stories into the air and place on the roof of Lahey Hospital in Burlington, Massachusetts is "right in our wheelhouse of providing customized solutions to our clients," says Modular Labs Chief Revenue Officer Mark Koers. The hospital needed to add the electrophysiology (EP) lab, which uses imaging to treat heart conditions like arrhythmias, next to its other cardiac labs, but had run out of space; placing it via crane on a third-floor courtyard was the creative solution.

"Modular Devices is changing how organizations think about building," says Koers. And business is booming, especially on the East coast "where space is a premium," he says.

"The economy right now with high interest rates, and hospitals and medical facilities getting strapped with capital expenditure projects—give us the opportunity to come in and help them continue to grow, without having to put in huge outlays right now," says Modular Devices Chief Financial Officer Sarah Robison. "While the economy and interest rates are not all that favorable for most folks right now, they’re definitely helping us and some of our business."

The company specialized for decades in mobile cardiac cath labs—"a really small niche in the mobile medical industry"—until it acquired Minnesota-based Interim Diagnostic Imaging just three months ago. The move added a fleet of mobile MRI, PET and CT scanners, making Modular Devices one of the largest mobile medical imaging fleets in the industry.

"We manufacture the ‘shell’—the trailer or modular building—and also provide the [imaging] equipment hospitals use today, with a variety of offerings among GE, Philips and Siemens," says Koers. "Everything is pre-built and pre-engineered here [in Indianapolis] and delivered ready-to-use for healthcare facilities and others…you plug it in and it's ready to go on arrival. We can have [the unit] there in a fraction of the time compared to building out with traditional construction."

Most of Modular Devices’ business is comprised of hospitals signing on for monthly rentals of its units. The large medical facilities often need temporary solutions to bridge services while new imaging labs are being built—a process that typically takes one to three years. Another common scenario is rural hospitals that don't yet provide the imaging services will rent the mobile units to drum up volume and start earning revenue until it can afford to build an in-house lab.

Growing demand, various market forces and a recent private equity investment are sparking "some incredible change in the last few years" for Modular Devices. Just days ago, the company cut the ribbon at its larger headquarters on Indy's southeast side, which is about 30% bigger than its prior location. The expanded operation will provide room to grow as the company sees "huge" opportunity in its newest segment of business: mobile cleanrooms.

Stricter regulations in recent years for on-site pharmacy compounding meant hospitals needed to upgrade their cleanrooms. Pharmacy compounding involves combining drugs to create patient-specific medications, such as chemotherapy agents. The mobile cleanrooms must meet stringent standards for air pressure, air exchange and HVAC systems.

"People are amazed at what we can engineer to take place in this ‘box’ in a simple way. One of our customers commented that it looked like NASA built it," says Koers. "There are a lot of really interesting opportunities in cleanrooms that we’ve really just tapped into; it's an incredible market for our pre-built solution."

Modular Devices has built and delivered 20 units for pharmacy compounding so far, including one at Lutheran Hospital's Cancer Center in Fort Wayne, and the company even delivered a cleanroom to Hawaii.

"Making a chemo drug to help save a life—when you look at it in the human context—it really is touching lives and helping facilitate for the healthcare system," says Robison.

With plans to "take on all kinds of [cleanroom] projects in a lot of different industries," while continuing its legacy in mobile imaging units—even hoisting them to a hospital roof—Koers is confident "the sky's the limit."

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