Celebrating 30 years in business, Respironics, Murrysville, Pa, specializes in noninvasive ventilation technology and sleep equipment. The company’s critical care services division won the M2M Value Chain Award in the health care category in June 2006; and in December, Axeda Corp presented Respironics with the inaugural Remote Service Leadership Award. Selected by peers at the Axeda user conference in October, the award is given for outstanding leadership in the Axeda device relationship management (DRM) solution. 24×7 spoke with Jim Orzech, services marketing manager, critical care division, about future trends, evolving technologies, and his company’s role in the industry.

24×7: Respironics just celebrated 30 years in business. Where do you see the company going in the next 5 years?

Orzech: From a divisional perspective, we’re looking to maximize our presence in the respiratory market. The critical care division was started in 1999 to expand into the critical care ventilation market.

24×7: You have a strong presence in noninvasive respiratory treatment. Is that mainly for the treatment of sleep apnea?

Orzech:Partially, yes. We are a leader in the sleep apnea market, but from a divisional perspective it is my understanding that the general trend may be moving toward noninvasive ventilation in the critical care setting. Intubating a patient has its problems, and the less you put a patient on an invasive ventilator the better, which is why the literature and the studies are becoming more favorable to noninvasive technologies.

24×7: How are digital and wireless technologies affecting the medical devices you are producing?

Orzech: Respi-Link is our DRM solution for our customers. Respi-Link allows us to communicate with our Esprit ventilator over the Internet. We don’t require our customers to drop phone lines, assign IP access, or modify their firewalls. If they currently have access to the Internet, they can use Respi-Link. It is very safe and secure. At this time, we use Respi-Link for remote software upgrades, remote option upgrades, and remote troubleshooting. Respi-Link allows us to better partner with our customers, particularly in the biomedical and respiratory departments. We are always searching for ways to help them do their jobs more efficiently, and that’s what Respi-Link does. We launched it for the Esprit ventilator last December and plan to make Respi-Link available for existing and new critical care devices as well.

24×7: What kind of service can it provide users?

Orzech: For example, we have a diagnostic screen on the Esprit that allows the biomedical technician to manipulate and test various electrical and electromechanical components without opening the shell. If the biomed has Respi-Link, a Respironics technical support engineer can see what the biomed sees on the diagnostic screen as the biomed is making changes. So we can actually walk the biomed through and understand what’s going on, because as the biomed is doing the test we’re seeing what’s happening in real time, typically within 3 to 5 seconds.

24×7: Do you see this sort of central control system leading the next generation of medical products?

Orzech: I think that anything that makes life more efficient and reduces paperwork is the wave of the future. I see biomedical departments getting more involved in IT issues, rather than just dropping hardware. Things are definitely going wireless, and there seem to be more requests and a greater need for protocol management and information-management support.

24×7: How is this going to affect the technicians working on the machines?

Orzech:As far as Respi-Link goes, all we need to do is download the agent onto their PC or their laptop; and whenever they have a problem they can just call us, make the connection, and we can see what’s going on. Eventually, we will be able to run the test remotely rather than just viewing the test. It doesn’t mean we will be able to do that in the operating ventilation mode with the customer connected, but for the purposes of troubleshooting we will be able to actually assume control of the ventilator and run the test for the technician while the technician is standing in front of it. This will really reduce downtime and facilitate learning for the BMET.

24×7: What else do you see changing in the biomedical industry in the next few years?

Orzech: I see the Web becoming more prevalent in meeting the customer’s expectations and in providing solutions. We are working on Web-based projects that will allow the customer to do his job more efficiently. We are currently producing a Web tutorial, complete with steady-stream video as well as voice-over, that instructs the customer on how to do preventive maintenance on our devices. In addition to that, rather than going to a physical location for training we might be in a position to provide some Web pretraining or maybe Web refresher training for customers who have had the training before but haven’t touched the device in a while. This would help reduce costs for everybody.

Zac Dillon is associate editor of 24×7. Contact him at zdillon@ascendmedia.com.