As a former pharmaceutical sales representative, Abbi Jones regularly visited OB/GYN offices. But after becoming a pregnant woman herself and talking with office staff over time, she realized that every woman struggled to collect a urine sample in a cup.
“I really thought it was just me,” she said, “but I was told by the office staff that they spend most of the day cleaning. It’s extremely difficult for women to touch the cup, and especially difficult when you add pregnancy or obesity.
Jones set out to develop an alternative, but she wanted to do more than provide a user-friendly solution. She also wanted a durable one. The result is the eco・pí Urine sample collectorfor which its company MedPaper and its industrial partner, International graphic packaging (GPI), won the judges’ award in the Paperboard Packaging Council’s 2021 design competition.
Eco・pí is a funnel-shaped shell-style hinged tray with a two-ply design that holds a sample cup in place and also acts as a hygienic handle. Platter performance is enhanced with a thin lamination of PET film that increases stiffness and moisture. It is made from cardboard sourced from sustainably managed renewable forests strategically located near paper mills.
Jones said she came up with the idea for a funnel, and after a patent search, she found that virtually the only other collecting alternative was the “nun’s bonnet” specimen container.
“It takes up a lot of space in storage and waste,” Jones said. “So I wanted to use paper.”
After a phone call to GPI, Jones and his company MedPaper met with Chuck Tarlton, GPI’s director of new product development.
GPI’s expertise in paperboard trays was important because “paper is difficult to work with,” Jones explained. “It’s malleable and it tears, so kudos to their team.”
She explains that eco・pí is designed so that urine flows through a top hole and drains into any existing cup used by the lab or clinic. She noticed that every office seemed to use a different mug, and some rural areas even used a Dixie mug.
Such flexibility “is the least disruptive,” she said. “Changing behavior is tricky, even if the solution is better. The smaller the change the better, so we decided to make it easy for them so they can use whichever cup they prefer. It has to be easy to use, otherwise people won’t use it.
Jones explained the reasoning behind the PET coating: “The poly layer allows the paper to be stretched into shape, and we also had to make sure that no paper particles got into the sample, so the poly acts as a barrier. Above all, eco・pí remains durable/renewable even with the thin layer of poly.
Despite using recycled cardboard, eco・pí is white for medical appeal and looks “clean,” she added. Offices are already purchasing eco・pí as a non-sterile item, and his team is finalizing designs for sterile packaging using paper for validation later this year. GPI has also designed a dispenser for multipackaging.
Jones and her idea have come a long way already, but the past two years have turned out a little differently than she expected. Shortly after securing its first round of funding, the pandemic hit. “No one wanted to talk about urine cups during the pandemic,” she recalled. She used the time to do a lot of branding work and research potential markets. “I found that would also be needed in pediatrics and assisted living,” she said.
His team also tested eco・pí “everywhere” and collected user feedback. “A mom told me it helped her daughter in the ER. They didn’t need to catheterize her, and it helped get a sample,” she said.
Jones added that he was also told that eco・pí made urine collection easier for clinics and patients. “There’s less cleaning and women don’t have to wait to drink more water if they’re having trouble giving a sample.” She also hopes that eco・pí can reduce the overall need for catheterization to collect a sample.
“It’s been an incredible journey, and I’m thrilled with this award,” Jones said.
“I want to change the world in the medical field. Plastic has its place, but this app is one that can use paper. She adds that she doesn’t hit the “nun’s cap – there’s a place to measure urine.”
But for urine collection, she says, “there is a huge need, and I intend to fill it.”