Wearables firm Fitbit has recently announced that it has developed a low-cost emergency ventilator called Fitbit Flow, which has obtained authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use during the Covid-19 public health emergency.
After seeing the global need for ventilators, Fitbit applied its deep in-house expertise in advanced sensor development and hardware design to quickly create Fitbit Flow, an automatic resuscitator inspired by the MIT E-Vent Design Toolbox and based on specifications for Rapidly Manufactured Ventilation Systems.
During development and testing, Fitbit consulted with Oregon Health & Science University emergency medicine clinicians caring for Covid-19 patients at OHSU Hospital and worked with the MassGeneralBrigham Center for Covid Innovation working group on the design to meet the needs of practitioners.
“Covid-19 has challenged all of us to push the boundaries of innovation and creativity, and use everything at our disposal to more rapidly develop products that support patients and the health care systems caring for them,” said James Park, co-founder and CEO of Fitbit.
“We saw an opportunity to rally our expertise in advanced sensor development, manufacturing, and our global supply chain to address the critical and ongoing need for ventilators and help make a difference in the global fight against this virus.”
Fitbit Flow builds on standard resuscitator bags like those used by paramedics, with sophisticated instruments, sensors, and alarms that work together to support automated compressions and patient monitoring.
The device is designed to be intuitive and simple to use, potentially helping to reduce the strain on specialized staff who are typically needed to operate a commercial ventilator. Other similar emergency ventilators vary in the combination of features they offer, but Fitbit said none delivers all of the attributes of its device at the same lower price range.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, “US hospitals are already reporting shortages of key equipment needed to care for critically ill patients, including ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical staff. Current estimates of the number of ventilators in the United States range from 60,000 to 160,000. No matter which estimate we use, there are not enough ventilators for patients with Covid-19 in the upcoming months.”
“Fitbit Flow is a great example of the incredible innovation that emerges when academia and industry employ problem-based innovation to respond quickly to an important need. Covid-19 is a new illness and we still have much to learn about the progression, treatment, and potential recurrence of this disease. It’s critical that we develop solutions that can help ensure our health systems have the equipment they need now, and in the future if we do see a resurgence of Covid-19,” said David Sheridan, assistant professor of Pediatric Emergency Medicine and co-director of Emergency Clinical Innovation Oregon Health & Science University.
Fitbit said it aims to leverage the company’s vast infrastructure and manufacturing capabilities that currently produces millions of Fitbit devices per year to produce large volumes of these emergency devices quickly.
The goal is to supply these devices to healthcare systems around the world that do not have a sufficient number of traditional commercial ventilators. Fitbit Flow is designed to be used only when a traditional commercial ventilator is not available, it added.