Mission as a Blueprint
In times of disbelief, that’s when beliefs matter most.
As 2019 came to a close and a new decade commenced, COVID-19 had taken hold. By late March, shortages of personal protective equipment, hospital beds, and answers left doctors and nurses working bed to bed, moment to moment.
As hospitals became flooded with critically ill patients, it quickly became clear that the global supply of ventilators likely would not meet the time-sensitive demand. So we started by increasing production. Our Ireland facility introduced 24/7 operations and over several months we increased ventilator manufacturing fivefold. We fortified our supply chain, brought in new partners, and trained new employees. But it wouldn’t be enough. The world needed something more sustainable. Our Mission became our blueprint.
Building and Training to Help Milan
Devastated by the coronavirus, Italy was the first European country to impose a national quarantine. In a matter of weeks, hospitals were running out of beds and equipment. A team of Medtronic employees helped build a temporary hospital in Milan, then trained new staff on how to use our ventilators. Within 15 days from the start of construction, the first patients were admitted.
Unsure of what lay ahead, we started with our one constant as our guide — our Mission to alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life. It was time to put our purpose into action. We came together — virtually gathering our global leaders, biomedical engineers, and scientists to devise a plan.
How could we best help patients? By sending ventilators to the places where they were needed the most. How could we support innovation? By repositioning our invention submission program to focus on virus-fighting technology. How could we expand access to respiratory support for patients? By partnering with academic institutions and others to create, deploy, and share designs for the Coventor — a simple, low-cost ventilator designed for healthcare workers with limited access to traditional ventilator devices. How could we do it all faster? By working with the FDA to authorize emergency use of our compact ventilator for use in the United States.
“We provide health, and we provide hope. People are depending on us, and we cannot let them down. We must continue to innovate and fulfill our Mission.”
– Geoff Martha, Medtronic Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
On March 30, 2020 we began publicly sharing design specifications for our portable, compact ventilator allowing others around the world to join the fight. This move helped major manufacturers reevaluate how they operated to support the effort. In the first few weeks, there were more than 200,000 downloads of the blueprint.
Though separated by distance, the world came together to fight coronavirus. We reached out to collaborators and competitors alike to help support hospitals and healthcare workers. We led a team to form the global Ventilator Training Alliance, aimed at training and providing support to those working with this life-saving technology. Australia-based JigSpace created 3D augmented reality training guides to upskill global manufacturers on our open-sourced ventilator design specs. In Canada, the government backed Baylis Medical’s efforts to ramp up the production of ventilators based on specifications we publicly shared. And by teaming up with companies such as VinGroup, Walton Group, and Tata Group, we increased access to ventilators in Vietnam, Bangladesh, and India. By working together, we didn’t lose a competitive edge — we gained hope.
A Long Journey
Ventilators are not simple machines. Our most complex model consists of more than 1,500 parts sourced from 100 suppliers across 14 countries. As countries began closing borders and restricting imports and exports to limit the spread of the virus, our global supply chain confronted unprecedented challenges. We worked together to help them continue operating and ramp up production of critical components. Distribution partners ensured medical suppliers and products could continue to reach patients and healthcare professionals in need. And for a time during the summer of 2020, Space Exploration Corporation (backed by founder, Elon Musk) manufactured a key component for our most advanced ventilator.
Before coronavirus, hospital systems and health insurance companies were slow to adopt telehealth solutions. But in just a few short weeks, it became the new norm. Medtronic quickly adapted its home-based remote monitoring platforms — typically used to manage those with chronic conditions — so healthcare professionals could remotely assess, monitor, and triage patients experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. This helped keep at-risk patients safe at home and tempered demand on the healthcare system. At the same time, patients with chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease were quickly transitioned to telehealth visits. This allowed them to be monitored through their medical devices from the safety of their homes.
A tenuous sense of normalcy is taking root in places where coronavirus cases are declining, and vaccinations are on the rise. But the new normal is anything but normal, especially when some experts believe COVID-19 will become an endemic disease, never really going away but losing its potency over time. For now, the severity of the pandemic depends entirely on where you live. The virus is toppling health systems in some developing parts of the world while hospitals in countries with declining cases are resuming elective procedures with enhanced safety measures in place.
The virus isn’t gone, but we are learning to live with it in our midst.