Health care is usually a competitive environment. But in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, we're seeing organizations come together to collaborate and innovate like never before. The Ventilator Training Alliance (VTA) is yet another example of this intra-industry collaboration. A group of 10 ventilator manufacturers worked together to form a free, one-stop shop for ventilator training guidance.
As Pat Berges, VTA chair and VP of commercial capabilities at Medtronic, put it: "In nearly 20 years in medical devices, I have never seen competitors come together for something that's so completely altruistic. This is an inspiring effort for the sake of mankind and to help our health care heroes on the frontlines."
The VTA set out to address two main challenges. First, educate end users on the influx of new ventilator models rapidly entering the market. Second, provide comprehensive resources for end users who may be newly assigned to respiratory care in addition to those that received training years ago but may not be as familiar with how to operate different types of ventilator models. Combined, these challenges affect nearly every hospital—so the VTA embarked on a global solution.
Within two weeks, top global ventilator manufacturers and software developer, Allego, created a free, downloadable app, which serves as a central source for ventilator training resources. And they're seeing impressive results: Within 48 hours of launching, the app saw more than 10,000 downloads in over 100 countries.
The app sorts information by manufacturer and includes instructional videos, troubleshooting guides, and user manuals. And more manufacturers are joining the alliance and adding their material to the app on an ongoing basis.
Benefits of using the VTA app
The VTA app should benefit a wide range of hospitals—whether they are currently experiencing surges, in preparation mode, or training future staff. Hospitals that are operating in crisis mode have staff who require immediate access to guidance on ventilator use. For hospitals that are in preparation mode, the app enables users to build skills and increase familiarity with multiple ventilator models in advance of anticipated surges.
The VTA and Allego designed the app, which clinicians can access on a mobile or web browser device, with different needs in mind: community hospitals and academic medical centers, career respiratory specialists and repurposed clinicians, hospitals at surge capacity, and hospitals that are half empty may all benefit from the app. The goal is to have a platform that allows a wide variety of users to access materials quickly and get smart on best practices.
Additional considerations to ensure long-term success
While the VTA enables distinct benefits for hospitals, provider organizations should keep a few considerations in mind.
First, the VTA started with the most acute need—invasive ventilators. The app does not currently include training for non-invasive ventilators. Now that the major invasive ventilator companies have joined the alliance, the VTA is accepting a broader range of ventilator manufacturers, including those that focus on non-invasive ventilation. So organizations using those non-invasive alternatives will still need to consult the manufacturer or assign staff to hone their Google skills to get the relevant training information.
Second, the app's content isn't currently standardized across manufacturers. Some may have more digital content than others or use different formats, which can make learning across products difficult. In its communications, the VTA acknowledges that this app is an ongoing, iterative solution with new content being added daily. As the VTA adds more manufacturers and continues to evolve, they hope to create more consistency between the materials in each manufacturer's channel.
Third, while the app has a variety of content geared for different skill levels, hospital leaders should account for the varying time it takes staff to reach proficiency. It may take more time for a nurse who hasn't had ventilator training since nursing school to feel comfortable with the equipment compared to a seasoned respiratory therapist who may only need to watch a few short videos to feel up to speed.
Overall, this app fills an important training need—especially for those hospitals who are used to training staff on three to five ventilator types and are now having to adapt and train staff on up to 20 different types. While we continue to expect suppliers to compete with one another in traditional ways, the VTA highlights the value of coming together around non-competitive elements and collaborating for the common good. We’re seeing a similar approach to collaboration in the pharma industry, as they share R&D platforms to accelerate the timeline for Covid-19 vaccine and treatment development.
One question remains, though: Are there other opportunities to create meaningful, intra-industry collaborations in a post-Covid world, or will these few examples be only short-term, crisis-driven innovations?