Qlicksmart improves workplace safety for medical professionals worldwide

Qlicksmart recently expanded to China and now has its sights set on Southeast Asia.

Queensland’s Qlicksmart has been exporting its medical safety products for almost 25 years – and it’s still diversifying to new markets. In late 2023, the company started exporting its world-first scalpel blade removers, ampoule openers and medication identification clips to China.

A presence in one of the world’s largest healthcare markets is not enough for this ambitious Australian company. Qlicksmart is now working with Austrade to expand across Southeast Asia, where spending on healthcare is rising quickly.

This 2023 Australian Export Awards finalist is a champion of Australian innovation, working with clinicians and medical device companies to bring their ideas to market. The company’s success at home and abroad has created jobs in Australia: it has doubled the number of staff at its Brisbane office over the past five years.

‘We couldn’t do it without our very capable people,’ says Dr Chamindika Konara, Qlicksmart’s General Manager. ‘Sixty per cent of senior management are female and 75% of our team recognise themselves as bilingual or trilingual. We are so proud of our diverse team and the work we do to bring new Australian innovations to the local and international markets.’

Bringing innovative Australian medical devices to the world

Qlicksmart specialises in medical devices that improve staff and patient safety. Founded by two Australian clinicians, Dr Michael Sinnott and Dr Neville Henry, the company invented the world’s first single-handed scalpel blade remover.

Rather than use forceps or other unsafe methods, clinicians insert the scalpel into one of Qlicksmart’s safety-engineered devices to remove the blade quickly and safely. The devices also ensure users comply with infection control and workplace regulations. Over the past 20 years, Qlicksmart estimates its devices have safely removed over 149 million scalpel blades and prevented an estimated 9,500 injuries to healthcare workers.

‘We are a company with products developed by clinicians for clinicians,’ says Dr Konara. ‘We believe that if you don’t take care of the healthcare worker, you can’t take care of patients. Our products are certified to international standards for quality and safety.’

Qlicksmart also looks for new Australian medical devices to bring to market. To date, this has included SnapIT, a device that opens ampoules, and CheckCLIP, a medication identification clip.

‘Clinicians will approach us with their ideas,’ says Dr Konara. ‘They trust us because our founders are clinicians themselves. We also seek out new innovations. Lately, our distributors have also brought us ideas they come across in their interactions with other clinicians.’

A man in scrubs and a surgical mask removing a scalpel blade using Qlicksmart's scalpel blade remover device.

Qlicksmart’s world-first single-handed scalpel blade remover protects clinicians worldwide.

More than two decades of exporting

Qlicksmart started exporting in 2000. Today its safety devices are used in over 50 countries, up from 32 in 2019. Exports account for 70% of the company’s business. Key export markets include Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the UK and the US. Its devices are supplied through a network of 140 distribution partners.

China had been on Qlicksmart’s export radar for some time.

‘China is a market that requires substantial resources, from distribution and logistics support to IP and product registration, marketing and advocacy,’ says Dr Konara. ‘It was a 12-month process alone to find the right distribution partner. All of those pieces finally came together last year.’

Dr Konara says Trade and Investment Queensland provided the introduction to the distribution partner in China. Austrade has been working with Qlicksmart and the Chinese distributor to raise awareness in the market. For instance, assisting the distributor to exhibit at the China International Medical Equipment Fair (CMEF), one of the world’s largest medical fairs.

Austrade also organised for Qlicksmart to speak at the 15th China Australia Health Forum, which attracted senior executives from China’s healthcare industry. Qlicksmart will continue to advocate for its products as part of its China expansion strategy.

Expansion to Southeast Asia

Qlicksmart is also looking to grow its business in Southeast Asia.

‘We are interested in Southeast Asia because the region’s population is increasing and so is its spending on healthcare,’ says Dr Konara. ‘Our products have been available in Malaysia and Singapore for some years. We expanded into Thailand and Vietnam in 2023. The Philippines is next.’

Austrade is helping Qlicksmart to work with distributors across Southeast Asia. ‘Some distributors are mature with good market coverage,’ says Dr Konara. ‘Others are starting out. Austrade’s service is tailored to each market – that’s what’s so special about their support.’

Government assistance eases market entry

Government support is vital to Qlicksmart’s success. The company identifies markets of interest and reaches out for in-market assistance. This assistance could include market insights, introductions to potential distributors and invitations to regional trade shows.

‘We have a limited or no presence in many overseas markets,’ says Dr Konara. ‘Without in-market support, expansion would be difficult. We also tap into our distribution network. For example, our Singaporean distributor for a specific product range would know who their Malaysian counterpart is and put us in touch. Trade shows are another way to meet customers and distributors.’

Qlicksmart advises other medtech companies to pick their distributors carefully.

‘Bringing new medical devices to a new market is a long-term commitment,’ says Dr Konara. ‘One of the key success factors is a business that will partner with you for some years. We look for distributors that are prepared to go on that journey with us.’

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