Living and Breathing Engineering

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Chris Brooks, Chief Strategy Officer, Ventec Life Systems

For most people, breathing happens without thinking. But for people who need help breathing, a ventilator is a device they can’t live without.” - Ventec Life Systems

Respiratory dysfunction is one of the most prevalent and expensive challenges in modern healthcare. Ventec Life Systems, a small company in Washington state is tackling these challenges and making life easier for people who suffer from spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, ALS, asthma, muscular dystrophy – and now COVID-19. The word “ventilator” is on everyone’s mind globally. These life-saving devices are complicated and must be held to the highest quality standards. After all, we’re talking about breathing - and breathing is life.

NI invited Chris Brooks of Ventec Life Systems to take us behind the scenes of the teams’ heroic efforts to engineer the first-of-its-kind mobile and lightweight critical care ventilator. Here’s what he had to say. 

Simply put, quality cannot be compromised for a critical care ventilator; it must have the precision, control and performance that medical professionals need for patients who require a ventilator or to treat the most serious medical conditions including COVID-19 cases.
NI: Tell us about Ventec and your company’s mission?

Ventec: In 1989, our founder’s father was diagnosed with ALS. Seeing the difficulties his father faced with breathing inspired him to create Ventec Life Systems in 2013 and begin developing VOCSN, our leading product. We like to say we’re “defining integrated respiratory care” - that means redefining respiratory care to improve patient outcomes and reduce caregiver challenges in the hospital and home. VOCSN seamlessly integrates five separate devices including a ventilator, oxygen concentrator, cough assist, suction, and nebulizer into one unified respiratory system.

A Ventec Life Systems employee working to create VOCSN Multi-Function Ventilator (Image courtesy of Ventec Life Systems)

NI: How does your technology engineer hope and impact the lives of others? 

Ventec: It all starts with our patients - we are first and foremost here to serve them. We designed VOCSN to make life easier for patients and their caregivers. The result is that patients become more mobile and caregivers have more time to care for their patients.

Last fall we took a group of residents using VOCSN at Gurwin Jewish Nursing and Rehabilitation to a Major League Baseball game at Citi Field. Many of them had not left their room in months, let alone left the facility or traveled to a baseball game. Seeing their joy and the impact it made on their loved ones illustrated the importance integrated respiratory care can have on their lives. 

Providing care to patients who require a ventilator is demanding because of the various equipment and therapies required to keep them healthy. Our goal from day one has been to improve their lives not only by making ventilators mobile and easy to use, but also by making it easier to stay compliant with therapy.

NI: How did you Engineer Ambitiously to make it happen?

Ventec: Integrated care is a popular buzzword in healthcare today, but there are no devices that integrate therapy delivery.  Ventilator users require multiple, separate devices to manage their care.  The combination of five therapies in VOCSN leapfrogs the traditional options for ventilator users by creating the first and only multi-function respiratory solution that is simple, mobile, and care changing.

And we’re not done yet - our engineering team is constantly working to improve and continuing to innovate. For example, we recently added high flow therapy to VOCSN, providing medical professionals with greater flexibility to treat patients with a wide variety of needs from hospital to home. We work with patients and caregivers to understand their pain points and build an integrated, user-friendly medical device from the ground up. 

With the challenges of treating patients with COVID-19, we’re also focusing on expanded ventilator production to support frontline healthcare professionals in treating patients with this disease.  

NI CompactDAQ hardware is used to acquire data from dozens of sensors, ensuring that each critical care ventilator is ready for deployment.


Ventec Life Systems created VOCSN - the first and only Multi-Function Ventilator that seamlessly integrates five devices.

NI: Tell us about the team at Ventec Life Systems.

Ventec: We’re proud to have some of the best minds in respiratory care working at Ventec Life Systems and our team’s patient-centric culture. We are motivated by the belief that people are more than their medical conditions and that technology should evolve to make life easier. Oliver Hoyt, who fights Muscular Dystrophy is a great example. “My VOCSN is the best tool in my toolbox for fighting Muscular Dystrophy. With five machines in one I am never without the support I need to keep my lungs strong,” said Oliver.

Ventec Life Systems engineers conduct extensive reviews and tests of all components in VOCSN Multi-Function Ventilator (Image courtesy of Ventec Life Systems)

NI: What is the value of testing in critical care ventilator production? 

Ventec: Combining five devices into a single device that is energy efficient and dependable required intense reengineering. A majority of the more than 700 parts had to be designed and developed from scratch, and development included eight patents. Patients depend upon VOCSN to breathe and VOCSN must work 24/7.  The value of testing cannot be overstated because our patients are relying on us for the vital therapies they need to breathe. 

Simply put, quality cannot be compromised for a critical care ventilator; it must have the precision, control and performance that medical professionals need for patients who require a ventilator or to treat the most serious medical conditions including COVID-19 cases. To us, this is what it means to engineer hope and why we must continue to engineer ambitiously.

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