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New Episode of MedTech POV Podcast: ResMed CEO Discusses Scaling Up Ventilator Production, Navigating Semiconductor Chips Shortages, to Put Patients First

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Mick Farrell, ResMed CEO and member of the AdvaMed board of directors, joined AdvaMed’s Scott Whitaker on the MedTech POV podcast to discuss how an agile company with skilled staff and a clear mission can pivot sharply as the market demands, from scaling up ventilator production at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic to informing semiconductor chips manufacturers of their product’s critical importance to the medical technology industry.

Farrell explained how ResMed’s ventilators were a small part of the company’s business before the COVID-19 pandemic. The company was focused on its core business, connected devices treating conditions including sleep apnea and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in patients worldwide. The pandemic demand for ventilators was sudden and acute.

“We were thrown into the fire,” Farrell said. “I had an Army general calling me at 7 Sunday morning. It was FEMA demanding ventilators. I had similar calls from the German government. We have a large operation in Germany. We manufacture in Singapore and in Sydney, Australia, and I had conversations with the government ministers of health of both of those countries as well. It was really interesting to see how different governments behave. The U.S. government used the Defense Production Act and said, the parts and pieces that go into ventilators have to be prioritized.” (starts at 00:03:35 in the podcast)

Farrell said ResMed’s supply chain partners stepped up, allowing the company to dramatically scale up ventilator production.

“For our flagship ventilator, the Astral, we made five times, 500 percent the volume in that first half of 2020 versus the first half of 2019,” Farrell told Whitaker. “Across our whole ventilator range, we were up 3.5 times, 350 percent. It was really almost a public-private partnership where we bonded together.” (00:04:44)

Farrell credited Whitaker for marshalling the medtech industry to pull together supply lists and component sources. ResMed’s epidemiology model of the global flow of COVID-19 transmission and ventilator needs was within 1 percent accurate of the U.S. Army’s early demand, Farrell said.

Among the earliest heroes of the pandemic were the employees who kept manufacturing under way to produce ventilators amid widespread shutdowns and setting up the ventilators for severe patients, working closely with front line doctors and respiratory therapists, Farrell said.

“They were the true heroes in 2020, saving many, many hundreds of thousands, probably, globally, millions of lives potentially,” he said. (00:07:42)

The lessons of COVID-19 will shape ResMed well into the future, Farrell said. One, ResMed and the patients it serves are ever-mindful of digital health and the evolution of technology that limits the need for in-hospital care. ResMed continues to evolve its digital health technology to reflect patient needs. Two, patients better understand the need to buy hygienic supplies, such as tubing and humidifier systems, for their at-home respiratory and other care rather than more routinely seek hospital care.

“COVID has accelerated the digital health strategy because it’s allowed consumers around the world to realize that personalized medicine, engaging with therapy, engaging with their medical care digitally, can be really fruitful to improve outcomes, lower costs, and for the individual, just frankly to have a better quality of life,” Farrell said. (00:15:02)

On the semiconductor chips shortage, Farrell said he appreciated the channel of communication Whitaker and AdvaMed have opened with the Department of Commerce, including a call with Farrell and other medtech CEOs and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, on the need for prioritizing scarce chips for medical devices.

“Do we need one more Model 3 Tesla going zero to 60 in five seconds?” Farrell said. “Or do we need 500 ventilators that can give the gift of breath? I love that the Department of Commerce is listening to us.” (00:21:06)

To listen to the episode or find past episodes of the podcast, download the MedTech POV podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever podcast streaming is available.

AdvaMed, the world’s largest medical technology association, launched the MedTech POV podcast in April 2021. The program has featured medtech and health care policy leaders such as Dr. Steven Hahn and General James Mattis. In each episode, guests and host Scott Whitaker cover the intersection of medtech and policy from every perspective, including current issues in business, policy, and current events.

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AdvaMed member companies produce the medical devices, diagnostic products and health information systems that are transforming health care through earlier disease detection, less invasive procedures and more effective treatments. AdvaMed members range from the largest to the smallest medical technology innovators and companies. For more information, visit www.advamed.org.