It’s a very high-risk situation, we’re taking all the precautions we can, and we’re just trying to stay strong mentally about the whole thing. Justin Barber may look like a doctor about to rush out and treat COVID-19 patients at a moment’s notice, but he’s actually a biomedical technician, someone who fixes medical devices. He works out of a hospital in Houston, Texas. Normally you know we glove up and we take care of business on-site, but now we have to wear masks 100% of the time. When we go into a room we put on a fresh set of gloves and then when we leave we take those clothes off, have to wash our hands, sanitize, and then you know sometimes re-glove, just to leave.
It’s the job that’s gotten dangerous during a global pandemic. If one of us gets sick then obviously multiple technicians in a room somebody else is probably gonna get sick, and you could take down a whole hospital just by taking down your biomed staff. Barber has been preparing for the worst of COVID-19 in the next month by making sure ventilators and other medical equipment are in working order. I can honestly tell you that we don’t have service manuals for a lot of stuff. Some of it is intuition, and other things we rely on forums. Barber and other biomed technicians have been trading information on Reddit, Facebook, and websites like Med Wrench and Dot Med for years. It’s a big network of BioMed’s that will get online and will present the problem to the rest of the world and we’ll see if somebody has an answer, which usually somebody does thankfully. Medical device manufacturers have tried to stop this decentralized information sharing to maintain full control over their products manufacturers have fought against DIY repair services in court as well so biomedical technicians have had to think creatively especially in a pandemic because one broken machine could be the difference between life and death for a patient what has been happening over time is the medical device companies are employing some of the same tactics that we’ve seen Appl use where they’ll say well we’ll sell it to you but we’re not going to let you service it we want to be the ones to service it Kyle wins is the founder and CEO of iFixit a third-party repair company for consumer electronics many companies are good guys and they provide the information that vile meds many companies do not manufacturers frequently claim manuals and the information in them belong to them and not hospitals it’s the results of broadly written copyright laws written throughout the 1990s to protect the music and film industry from pirates that were taking their work and sharing it first through bootleg VCR tapes and then online why buy when you can get your music for free on Napster but in the 2000 software began to get integrated into phones household items cars farming equipment and medical devices to manufacturers tried to make it so they were the only ones who could repair consumer devices it’s not just service manuals but it’s also sometimes the service utilities which you know you connect the laptop to the device to get it to calibrate or to read the error codes we have problems even with special tools because sometimes you need a special tool to accomplish a special task and apart there’s some manufacturers that won’t even sell us parts its proprietary and we have no access to it inter Frank’s hospital workshop comm so Frank is a hero of the modern world he is a German guy who is a biomedical service technician in Tanzania and what he was finding was the equipment that was donated that ended up in Africa there was no access to the manufacturer a service supply chain Medtronic’s not going to send a service technician to Tanzania so he had to maintain it himself and he was just struggling with finding this information too so I’m gonna set up a website and I’m gonna organize all this in the central fashion for years Frank posted manuals service information and wrote about how the equipment worked I would say from my experience the most comprehensive most used resource for medical service information then Frank started getting takedown requests from manufacturers we used to rely on Frank’s quite a bit but since the manufacturers started placing takedown requests a lot of our resources on there have you know become incomplete there’s a lot of dead links most service technicians are relying on the information that they don’t have direct access to the manufacturer for so there’s all kinds of you know oh it’s a secret but non-public forums where they’re swapping this information because it’s almost faster to go on the forum and ask someone for a service manual than it is to go and find the authorized way they get it a right to repair movement has fought for years to change u.s.
Copyright law or passed state-level laws so biomedical technicians as well as the general public could fix their own devices but medical device companies fought back with letters to lawmakers saying write to repair laws could endanger the lives of patients if devices were fixed in parlez by untrained personnel the trade association Advan ed which represents medical device companies has even lobbied the Food and Drug Administration to step in and regulate third party device repairs but after an assessment by the FDA in 2018 the administration set objective evidence indicates third party entities provide high quality safe and effective servicing of medical devices it seems like the larger and more entrenched on monopolistic these companies are the more likely they are to be saying we don’t want the hospitals fixing these things instead they want to send out their own service technician in an emergency there’s no time to send a broken respirator back to the manufacturer or wait on a service call which leaves on-site technicians like barber to keep hospital equipment working so I’m going to show you around my office right here he has his own YouTube channel for sharing information with other BioMed’s some of the best resources are when nurses or nurse training managers they’ll post videos on YouTube showing how they set up and run a device so you can you can go on YouTube and even see how to replace an ACL you know if you wanted any type of surgery you can go on YouTube and you can see how does that surgery happen and that’s one of my coolest resources because I get to see how the users use the device so you learn the clinical aspect of it plus the mechanical aspect I fix it recently announced an initiative to begin collecting service manuals and information about medical devices on its website I’ve been really surprised that there isn’t good system-wide information about what kind of equipment is out there if you want to help us we we have thousands of PDFs that we’re organizing and so it should be nice if we could as a community come together and say well maybe we don’t know how to fix this equipment ourselves but we can organize files so let us as a society come together and organize files and create the centralized resource so that when the bio meds do need it it’s in a nicely easy to find place barber is already working overtime to deal with the impact that Cova 19 is having on his hospitals equipment and the worst may be yet to come right now even even our maintenance cycles are getting tighter and tighter because we don’t have access to the equipment it’s currently saving somebody’s life so that’s that’s definitely going to be an issue especially in about a month you know as these hours click down the amount of you we’re gonna start to see problems where we’re not going to be able to get to the equipment until it fails so we’re just praying that this passes by and we’re gonna do all right