Help Us Crowdsource Repair Information for Hospital Equipment
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Help Us Crowdsource Repair Information for Hospital Equipment

Heroic medical teams around the world are either dealing directly with or preparing for an onslaught. The American Hospital Association forecasts predict that COVID-19’s impact will be unprecedented. They anticipate that 4.8 million patients may be hospitalized, with 1.9 million of those admitted to the ICU, and 960,000 requiring ventilatory support. The Society of Critical Care Medicine anticipates that U.S. hospitals could absorb between 26,000 and 56,000 additional ventilators during the pandemic.

Ventilators are machines that mechanically breathe for patients who are too weak to breathe for themselves. With COVID-19, many patients develop acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). The WHO clinical management guidance recommends oxygen, and when that doesn’t work, mechanical ventilation.

We are learning from China and Italy that these crucial ventilators are being heavily utilized—many ventilators are running non-stop. There’s even precedent for hospitals short on ventilators using hose splitters to share a machine between patients, as in the 2017 Vegas shooting. Due to heavy use and accelerated wear and tear, these lifesaving machines are breaking down.

Biomedical technicians (biomeds for short) are the repair experts at hospitals, and in many regions they are stretched thin. There are a wide variety of machines made by a number of different manufacturers at hospitals around the world, and there is no single resource for how to repair all of them. We don’t know how many machines will fail once hospitals are truly taxed. We don’t know which parts of those machines are most at risk.

Removing a board from a Welch Allyn device

Some manufacturers heroically host service manuals for their equipment on their website, and some make them more challenging to locate. There is no single source of information for biomeds to access. Biomed forums are frequently populated with requests for specific PDF service manuals. The closest thing to a central resource is Frank’s Hospital Workshop, a fantastic website run out of Tanzania with hundreds of manuals and very helpful how-to resources for maintaining medical equipment. But Frank’s site is a one-person operation, and a single point of failure, should overwhelming traffic come calling.

We’re going to change that. Our biomed technicians’ time is too precious to waste on internet Easter-egg hunts. iFixit is building a central resource for maintenance and repair of hospital equipment. We need help from fixers everywhere, medical professionals, and biomedical technicians to make sure this is as robust, relevant, and useful as possible.

What we need from the medical community

  • Model numbers of all of the ventilators in use, BiPAP machines that can do double-duty as ventilators, and other essential equipment such as anesthesia machines.
  • Estimates on what parts or pieces of ventilators break, or might break, assuming an increased duty cycle.
  • Advice on what parts that will need to be reused but will be in short supply. For example, bacterial filters will probably become scarce—can we design a 3D-printed case that we could clamshell an N95 mask into for a DIY replacement?

What we need from everyone else

Please help us find service manuals for medical equipment. Frank’s Hospital Workshop has been the leading source for these online, and we want to mirror this information in case his website is inundated. Beyond the manuals themselves, we could use help:

  • Organizing and building out device pages with common medical equipment.
  • Reformatting service manuals to be more SEO-friendly and easier for non-engineers to read—screenshot or trim PDFs for use in step-by-step guides with straightforward instructions
  • Translate all of the above for the widest impact!

Here’s how to upload a manual:

  • Find or create a device page for the medical product
  • Upload a photo of the device and attach the manual

If you don’t have time to create pages on iFixit or need to share documents in bulk, email us the file at moderation@ifixit.com. A secure way to email large files is Firefox Send. To coordinate with the rest of the repair community and help figure out what documentation is still missing, sound off in our forum.

Creating an Accessible and Comprehensive Service Resource

Power supply lifted out of a Welch Allyn monitor device

Reading complex medical service manuals is challenging. They are full of engineering jargon and biomedical terminology. What happens when the biomed gets sick and a nurse is tasked with fixing a machine that she’s never worked on before? Finding the right place to start in the service manual can be challenging.

So we’re going to break them up into useful guides. We’ll keep the full service manual online, but pull out the relevant sections so that they are easy to find and access. We’ve done this before with medical equipment—for this Welch Allyn Vital Signs Monitor, we expanded on the manufacturer service manual with photos and troubleshooting information from our local biomeds.

This equipment is all functional right now, so let’s make sure we also have guides and advice on preventative maintenance and cleaning procedures to keep them running smoothly.

Most medical device service manuals are in English, but medical professionals around the world don’t always read English. We’ll be identifying priority guides for our community to translate. If you know of guides that are particularly important for your language, please email Sandra, our translator community lead, and she’ll work to prioritize it.

Our doctors, nurses, and medical professionals are going to be working around the clock to save lives. It’s very hard, difficult work, and they need to keep their tools and equipment operational. Let’s give them a hand!