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Matti Lehtonen on the Recent Wave of Enterovirus and the Changing Technology of Respiratory Care

With a wave of Enterovirus D68 infections in the U.S. and on the heels of World Anesthesia Day, Matti Lehtonen, General Manager, Anesthesia & Respiratory Care, GE Healthcare Life Care Solutions, shares why respiratory and anesthesia fields are some of the most rapidly changing and dynamic in the healthcare industry.

Q. Recently, we’ve seen a wave of Enterovirus D68 infections in the US. Can respiratory care technology help to treat patients with this and other respiratory illnesses?

Woman wearing oxygen mask

A:  Symptoms of Enterovirus D68 infections include wheezing and difficulty breathing. For patients with underlying pulmonary concerns, such as asthma or any form of a reactive airway disease, these complications may be more pronounced.  Critical Care ventilators are irreplaceable in these situations because they help the patients breathe while they recover. Not all patients with Enterovirus and other infections require such critical care, but when they do, it can be lifesaving.

The other important aspect of these ventilators in treating ventilated patients is that they can be used to deliver medications, automatically measure improvements or changes in the patient and help determine the patients’ caloric requirements.  This total care approach enables clinicians to efficiently and accurately meet patient needs.  Ultimately the goal is to not only help minimize the impact of the mechanical ventilation on the patient, but also the time the patient needs to remain in the ICU on a ventilator.

Q. Can you talk about the respiratory care environment in which these patients are being treated?

A:  The environment for respiratory care is similar to the overall changing healthcare environment. The clinician’s world has become more complex. With advances in medicine and technology, more complex care procedures can be performed on patients with more varied ages, weights, and comorbidities. With staffing shortages for acute care facilities and increasing complexity across the medical profession, clinicians may need additional experience to deal with some of these cases.  All of this is compounded by aging and growing populations and spiraling healthcare costs. Patients, families, payers, and governments all understandably expect that these challenges be met while continually improving the quality of care.

Q. On World Anesthesia Day and Respiratory Care Week in 2024, what do you expect the industry to be talking about?

A:  Clearly, for us in the industry, to keep doing more of the same is out of the question. It is not enough to just make a better ventilator, to add yet another ventilation mode, yet another vital sign waveform, yet another menu or control button.

What our customers expect is intelligent solutions to the challenges they face, not just boxes shipped to them. Ten years from now, we should be talking about how the various technologies and information systems in hospitals work seamlessly with each other and with the environment in which they operate. Systems that are intuitive to operate, that provide the right information at the right time to help clinicians make better decisions, that simplify workflows, allowing them to focus more on the patient – I would like to hope that we will reach a place where these ideas will be the norm.

For us, this means that we need to move beyond the traditional hardware to more intelligent software. It means we’re planning for seamless connectivity and wireless technology. It means cloud based systems, apps, and big data analytics. It means even considering the advances in consumer electronics. Our customers’ expectations in terms of user experience are evolving faster than ever – as they should be.

Q. Where in the world and in what settings do we see the greatest challenges for anesthesia and respiratory care today?

In the developed world, the cost of healthcare is a major issue. Regulation and industry changes require institutions to become more efficient and to have better, more predictable outcomes. Nowhere is this as pronounced as in the Operating Room and ICU, two very high cost environments in a hospital.

In the emerging parts of the world, access to quality care, such as modern surgeries, is the biggest challenge. At GE Healthcare, we work hard to provide reliable yet low cost technology for resource constrained settings. One area we want to continue focusing on is education. There simply are not enough clinicians trained in the technology and know-how to fulfill all the needs. It is therefore paramount that the solutions we provide be designed for safety and easy to use even in these settings.

Matti Lehtonen, General Manager, Anesthesia and Respiratory Care, GE Healthcare Life Care Solutions.

Matti Lehtonen, General Manager, Anesthesia and Respiratory Care, GE Healthcare Life Care Solutions.

Q: Anesthesia and respiratory care aren’t always a common topic in the overall healthcare discussions today. Why is it so important that we recognize these fields?

A: It goes without saying that anyone would rather stay out of the Operating Room or the Intensive Care Unit, given the choice. For healthcare systems, the focus should obviously be on prevention, early detection, and less invasive procedures. However, in the cases where surgery and hence anesthesia is required, or when patients need respiratory support, I think they, and their loved ones, have the right to expect the best possible care and outcomes.

Clinicians working in these two environments are under tremendous pressure to save patients’ lives and for us it is truly a privilege to be able to help them with the best, most reliable equipment possible.

More Information

CDC Enterovirus D68 Factsheet