April 27 (UPI) -- Researchers and caregivers at the Cleveland Clinic have developed a mobile app designed to help their colleagues across the country understand how to use different types of ventilators.
This type of instant education is vital, experts says, as clinicians have found themselves using breathing equipment they may not be familiar with, which has been a problem as the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed.
The Ventilator Mode App from Cleveland Clinic is designed to assist caregivers by providing real-time information about the model of ventilator they are using, at bedside. Clinicians can simply enter the make and model of the ventilator they're using to get a quick tutorial on the device as well as information on comparable machines they may have worked with in the past.
"Think of ventilators like cars -- there are many makes and models, but the main functions are the same," Dr. Jay Alberts, a biomedical engineer at the Cleveland Clinic and one of the app's co-creators, said in a press release.
"By entering information in this app, the caregiver can quickly understand how to operate that specific ventilator," he added.
To date, nearly 1 million Americans have been infected with the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, according to Johns Hopkins University. It's been estimated that approximately 20 percent of those infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, develop serious illness, including severe pneumonia.
Many of them require supportive care with a ventilator in order to breathe, said Dr. Raj Dasgupta, a pulmonolgist and critical care medicine specialist at Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. These needs have placed a significant burden on hospitals where the outbreak has been most severe, like in New York City, as many lack a sufficient number of ventilators to treat these patients.
To address inventory issues, many hospitals have incorporated new breathing devices or devices produced by non-traditional manufacturers, like car-makers. In addition, states like California, where the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has so far been less than expected, have donated ventilators to hospitals in New York and New Jersey, where the pandemic has hit hardest.
However, not all ventilators are the same, said Dasgupta, who was not involved with the Cleveland Clinic project, and many clinicians working in crisis settings at heavily impacted hospitals may find themselves working with a device that's new to them. Some have even used makeshift ventilators to ensure that patients receive the lung support they need.
"Anything that can help respiratory therapists better understand the equipment and how it works can help," Dasgupta told UPI. "How can education be a bad thing? A tool like this could still be helpful long after the pandemic is over."
He sees the app as a logical companion to a video series produced by the American Association for Respiratory Care and Harvard University School of Medicine, which offers instruction on the appropriate use of ventilators in patients with severe COVID-19.
Medical device manufacturers typically provide customers with how-to videos to educate them on the appropriate use of their equipment. However, these videos are typically several minutes long -- not fit for viewing in the ER when time is of short supply, Dasgupta said.