The Covid-19 pandemic crystallized a problem that has long plagued hospitals and biomedical engineers: many can’t maintain or repair their machines without the green light from medical device makers. In a survey of 222 medical repair professionals conducted by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group in June 2020, 92% reported that manufacturers had refused to provide them with service information for critical equipment including defibrillators, ventilators, and anesthesia and imaging machines, and 89% had been denied replacement parts.
“There are some companies and unfortunately, I think many of them, are more strict about what they control in terms of the service manuals and parts, so we’re not able to repair ourselves at the hospital level,” said Jarone Lee, a critical care physician at Massachusetts General Hospital.
But pushback is mounting as the “Right to Repair” movement — which demands medical device makers make it easier to access to service information and replace parts — gains momentum. In June, Colorado became the second state to pass a Right to Repair (RTR) law, which will require manufacturers to provide parts, software, tools and other service information about powered wheelchairs to their owners and independent repair providers. That effort builds on the success of other Right to Repair efforts to make it easier to fix everything from cars to smartphones. In total, there are 14 states now considering right to repair bills that would specifically cover medical devices…
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