By Loren Minsky
Take a moment to appreciate the miracle of each breath. Now take another moment to wonder at the technology that assists those with temporary or chronic breathing conditions. The advent of portable ventilators and the ensuing technological advances that allow them to be used even disconnected from either a fixed power source or compressed air supply have dramatically improved patients' quality of life.
Flight Medical Innovations, based in Lod in central Israel, has been manufacturing cutting-edge portable medical devices for respiratory problems since 1996. Its newly-introduced Flight 60 ventilator offers users their coveted long-term autonomy.
Flight 60 can operate independently for up to 12 hours and thanks to its 'Hot Swap' feature, a replacement battery can be switched in a matter of seconds according to the company. Suitable for infants to adults, the ventilator builds on the features of the company's original HT50 device with additions of the most advanced monitoring and communication features. It measures the actual flow of air to and from the patient, and can be programmed via a touch screen to be accessed locally or remotely, saving time on precautionary visits to the doctor.
The new Flight 60 ventilator. Flight Medical has been offering cutting edge medical devices for respiratory problems since 1996.
Slated to be available this month, the product just received US Food and Drug Administration marketing approval, already has CE approval from the EU, and is seeking regulatory approval in Japan, China and other countries. Products are marketed through local distributors.
Competing against top companies in the field
The original HT50 device was developed by Flight Medical’s R&D division, led by Israeli engineer Carmeli Aduan and assisted by a team of experts in the electronics and software fields.
"Flight Medical came into being at a time when there was an evolution in the market and companies, with the aid of new technology, were able for the first time to produce portable ventilators comparable in many of their capabilities to hospital ventilators mounted on the walls in an ICU," says president and CEO of Flight Medical, Michael Burshtine. It was at this stage that portable ventilators began to come into their own for home care, long-term care, disaster preparedness and transportation of patients.
The 35-employee company is a subsidiary of Medtechnica, Israel’s largest medical equipment distributor. Today it's competing with major international medical equipment companies such as Phillips, CareFusion, Tyco and GE and is well beyond its 'weight category' in terms of its market share in the territories where it operates.
"What takes a year in Israel takes double elsewhere"
With more than 15,000 ventilators sold throughout the world over the past 10 years, Flight Medical’s flagship HT50 ventilator is renowned for its ease of use and critical features, including mandatory, (pre-determined scheduled breaths) as well as the more sophisticated spontaneous ventilation, according to the company.
"You can appreciate the complication if you think of the time frame between the brain’s signal for the need for a breath and the time when such breath is taking place (milliseconds) and the fact that at the same instant the ventilator needs to sense that the patient wants to breathe, build pressure and deliver the air on time," explains Burshtine. The HT50 consumes substantially less power and oxygen than other ventilators on the market, he asserts.
Burshtine believes that Flight Medical's culture of innovation and creativity operates well in an Israeli setting, where he says the company produces exceptional results quickly.
"People here are creative and courageous, willing to venture out of their comfort zone and test new ideas. With portable ventilators there’s a need to combine high-level mechanical engineering with electronic and software capabilities and in Israel there is good interaction between the three. What takes a year to develop in Israel, would take double elsewhere," he says.
The company's vision is to supply every patient with a reliable, easy to use and functionality-rich ventilator. "We're looking to increase our footprint in the 'out-of-hospital' setting, and to expand our reach in medical equipment products. Looking to the future we predict the development of products with a greater degree of sophistication and convergence with other devices found in the patients’ environment," Burshtine concludes.