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For both healthcare technology professionals and lay users, making sure that mechanical ventilators work properly represents a huge challenge. Ensuring appropriate usage in a variety of care environments, managing the batteries that power these machines, and understanding how different manufacturers’ ventilators operate are just some of the problems confronting users.
The cover story of the July/August 2014 issue of BI&T (Biomedical Instrumentation & Technology), a peer-reviewed journal published by AAMI, investigates the challenges and opportunities of ventilation technology.
The article comes two months in advance of a Sept. 16-17, 2014 summit on ventilator technology that AAMI is hosting and organizing with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“Managing ventilators and ventilator–dependent patients really comes down to managing complexity-in ventilator clinical care practice standards, device design standards, systems, models, alarms, power, batteries, disposables, use environments, data, and patients,” writes author Martha Vockley.
This complexity can seem overwhelming to the clinicians and healthcare technology professionals responsible for ensuring the safety of patients. For example, manufacturers use a number of ways to show how much battery life is left. “Looking at a bar graph, is two bars 20 percent, 30 percent? It’s hard to say sometimes,” says Kent Miller, a respiratory therapist at the University of Michigan (U–M) Health System. There isn’t a lot of time for preventive maintenance, and machines are put back into use right after they are serviced and reprocessed, he adds.
Further complicating matters is that patients increasingly are using ventilators at home, where untrained caregivers are tasked with ensuring the machine operates properly. “There has to be an improvement to where we can connect these ventilators in the home, and skilled nursing and extended care facilities, to either the home care company and/or hospital, much like what we do in telemedicine techniques for heart failure and other patients,” says Ken Bandy, senior administrative director for U–M Hospitals and Health Centers’ respiratory care, home care services, pediatric home vent program, and the pulmonary program.
The story includes the perspective of one terminally ill patient who has resisted invasive mechanical ventilation. She urges manufacturers to create consistent instructions for use and special user guides for patients and caregivers.
The upcoming AAMI/FDA summit, which will take place in Herndon, VA, will give participants the opportunity to identify issues, set priorities, and develop and action plan for next steps related to the safe and effective use of ventilator technology. The event will be the sixth healthcare technology summit that AAMI and the FDA have hosted.
BI&T has a readership of nearly 13,000 and is a benefit of AAMI membership. The award-winning bimonthly journal is dedicated to the developers, managers, and users of medical devices and technology.