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Regions Hospital tests new ventilator tech from Medtronic

It allows caregivers to monitor and adjust ventilators remotely, drastically reducing the number of times staff need to enter the room of COVID-19 patients.

ST PAUL, Minnesota — Regions Hospital in St. Paul is the second in the world to test first-of-its-kind technology for ventilation from Medtronic. 

It allows caregivers to monitor and adjust ventilators remotely, drastically reducing the number of times staff need to enter the room of COVID-19 patients in the Intensive Care Unit. 

The collaboration between Regions and Medtronic started in the beginning of April. 

Typically, ventilators require close monitoring and settings needs to be adjusted. This means hospital staff are entering a patient's room regularly. 

Dr. Avi Nahum at Regions wondered if it was possible to do some of these visits remotely. 

RELATED: 'Coventor,' ventilator created at the U of M, gains FDA approval

"That kind of triggered my thought of reaching out to Medtronic and it kind of snowballed from there to create this tool," said Kelly Sullivan, supervisor of respiratory care services at Regions Hospital. 

From idea to implementation, it took 10 days. The first remotely monitored ventilator was up and running at Regions on April 16. 

"It was done extraordinarily quickly," said Vafa Jamali, senior vice president and president of the Respiratory, Gastrointestinal and Informatics business at Medtronic. 

The Minnesota-based company has been working on solutions to protect caregivers from exposure to COVID-19. According to Jamali, their team of engineers in California brought the idea to life. 

"There's nothing like this in the world," Jamali said. 

Credit: Regions Hospital
Regions Hospital's first remotely monitored ventilator was up and running on April 16.

For one COVID-19 patient on a ventilator for two weeks, it eliminates about 65 in-room visits. As of Monday, based on Regions' current ventilated COVID-19 patients, staff will have 450 fewer-in room visits for the average two-week duration of ventilator use. Sullivan said it's reduced the numbers of times they're going in and out of rooms by nearly 50%. 

"There was nothing completely remote. So some ventilators have the ability to take basically the display from the ventilator and just physically move it outside the room. We actually took it a step further," Sullivan explained. "We can remotely access that ventilator now with a laptop computer essentially anywhere throughout the hospital." 

40 of Regions' 57 ventilators now have this remote management capability. 

"We're using less PPE [personal protective equipment]. As everybody's well aware... it's on very short supply. It's keeping our staff safe from having to go in and out and it's also a big advantage to our patients where we can closely monitor the ventilators from anywhere in the hospital and make very quick changes without having to take the additional time to garb up and go in and out of the patients' rooms," Sullivan said. 

RELATED: As ventilator shortage looms, Medtronic will double production

While the technology isn't going to replace going into the room all the time, Sullivan said it's helpful for when they're weaning someone off a ventilator which requires frequent quick changes. 

Regions is one of five hospitals included in the pilot. The others are Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, the University of Alabama Birmingham Health System, Erlanger Health System in Tennessee and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. 

The software update is for the Medtronic Puritan Bennett™ 980 (PB980) ventilators. 

"By May 1 we'll be able to deploy this globally. So the PB980 has a very large footprint and we'll be able to deploy that free of charge to customers wanting to use this technology in their hospitals," Jamali said. 

Medtronic is also working on technology to remotely manage pulse oximeters, which are used to measure oxygen levels in blood. 

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