March 26, 2020
When Tutku Gövsa’s boss invited him to a March 17 meeting on the subject of “production support,” it didn’t register immediately as anything out of the ordinary: A computer scientist by training, Gövsa works for GE Healthcare in Wisconsin as the commercial platform leader in the imaging business. When he got to the meeting, though, he learned that GE Healthcare was seeking volunteers at its Madison factory to join the global fight against COVID-19. Specifically, folks were needed to build ventilators, which deliver air and oxygen to the lungs of patients having trouble breathing. After consulting his wife and children, Gövsa joined the cause. “We made a family decision,” he said. “There is an urgency not only for the company, but for the entire world.”
All hands on deck: The global demand for ventilators is enormous, and GE has been scaling up in other ways too. Earlier this week, the company announced it was partnering with automaker Ford to produce a simplified version of its existing ventilator. And it’s expanded its Madison operations to 24/7, teaching GE volunteers to assemble the life-saving machines. Dubbed Wave 1, the first round of recruits also included Tyler Vermey, a GE employee who attained the status of legend at the Madison plant for his knowledge of the valves inside ventilators. Now based in Salt Lake City, Vermey made the three-day drive to Wisconsin to enlist in the effort. Braving an earthquake and a blizzard along the way — “I felt like Bruce Willis in ‘Armaggedon,’” Vermey said — he’s now working the newly created third shift, showing his colleagues the ropes.
Learn more here about the Madison factory that’s rising to the challenge.
Doctors treating patients with critical lung infections typically send them for a computed tomography, or CT, scan — in normal times, anyways. But these aren’t normal times. CT scans take a while to conduct, there are only so many machines available, and each needs to be meticulously cleaned after each use — particularly when it may have been in contact with a virus as contagious as the one that causes COVID-19. At Peking Union Medical College Hospital in Beijing, Professor Xiaoting Wang and colleagues have been relying on another imaging technology as an alternative: ultrasound.
Spreading the word: Ultrasound machines are relatively small, lightweight and portable. They can be covered in plastic to protect them from germs or easily wiped down between patients. And doctors can see results from ultrasound scans instantly, including complications of the lungs that may indicate COVID-19. Wang and colleagues are keen to share what they’ve learned with the rest of the world: They recently reported their experiences of lung ultrasound in a letter to the editor of the Journal of Intensive Care Medicine. “It’s our responsibility to save lives in this kind of pandemic,” Wang said. “We have to do this.”
Learn more here about how doctors are using ultrasound as a tool in the fight against the virus.
Around the world, COVID-19 is placing a big burden on hospitals, their staffs and their equipment — and even those places that haven’t yet been hit hard are racing to prepare. One tool that can help them coordinate care is software that tracks data for individual patients and provides an overview of the next steps needed for those in the intensive care unit, where the most severe cases of COVID-19 often end up. “Healthcare authorities have seen what this disease can do,” says Peter van Heezik, GE Healthcare digital solutions marketing manager for Europe. “They are very much aware and are getting prepared by scaling up their intensive care departments.”
Saving time, saving lives: To help them manage patients in the ICU, GE Healthcare is offering European hospitals increased access to software platforms — including free additional licenses during the peak of the crisis — that enable doctors and nurses to digitally document patients’ vital signs. One hospital using the software reports saving at least 10 hours per week that would otherwise be spent manually documenting patients’ blood pressure, heart rate and the like; meanwhile, the hospital has reduced patient time spent in the ICU by 19%, freeing up beds for those who need them most. GE is also helping speed the distribution of hardware that supports these software platforms. “We realize that this is the moment we can really make a difference, with our customers and for our customers,” van Heezik says.
Read more here.
Good medical care is key in the battle against COVID-19 — another crucial piece is folks staying home to slow the spread of infection. That creates a dilemma, though, for workers at industrial companies whose job is to keep the lights on and the water running. To meet this challenge, some companies have expanded their use of automation software that allows them to operate systems remotely — and allows employees to use secure laptops and other mobile devices from the safety of home. That kind of tech has already existed, but largely been confined to smaller groups of workers, said Alan Hinchman, chief innovation officer of the digital automation and security consulting firm GrayMatter: “Now, having Wi-Fi at home and fully constructed LTE grids are the enabling pieces, and we’re seeing the democratization of mobilization strategies.”
Home sweet home office: Not all business are currently able to operate remotely, but the number of utilities and factories running largely from workers’ homes is set to increase. GE Digital is providing a free 90-day license to its remote monitoring and control system to 20,000 utilities and factories that use GE industrial automation, visualization and system control software. The company decided to open the licenses after working with one Ontario water utility to provide 20 remote workstations for plant employees. Another utility learned about the plan, and one thing led to another, said GE Digital vice president Matthew Wells: “That was when we realized this is clearly something we can do, to provide 90-day free licenses to anybody who needs it.”
Learn more here about how GE is helping critical workers safely do their jobs.
— QUOTE OF THE DAY —
“There are routine challenges, definitely. But at the end of the night, when you’re making the drive back home, you feel proud of what you’ve done. I hope we can get through these hard days together acting as one.”
— Tutku Gövsa, commercial platform leader at GE Healthcare
Quote: GE Reports. Image: GE Healthcare.
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