Fitbit, the manufacturer of activity trackers and wearable technology devices, has received federal approval for a low-cost emergency ventilator.
The San Francisco tech company has introduced Fitbit Flow, a ventilator that features sophisticated instruments, sensors and alarms that work together to support automated compressions and patient monitoring.
“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,” Fitbit Co-Founder and CEO James Park said in a statement.
A spokeswoman told PYMNTS production of the units is expected to begin this month and they will be available to first responders and hospitals later this year. The goal is to price the product at less than $5,000, she said, considerably less than similar devices that can cost up to $25,000.
After seeing the global need for ventilators, Fitbit said it used its expertise in sensor development and hardware design to craft Fitbit Flow, an automatic resuscitator inspired by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s E-Vent Design Toolbox. The Cambridge school’s initiative provides information focused around safety to build a manual resuscitator.
During development and testing, Fitbit said it worked with the Massachusetts General Brigham Center for COVID Innovation on the design and consulted with Oregon Health & Science University’s emergency room doctors caring for COVID-19 patients.
“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 Dr. David Sheridan, co-director of Emergency Clinical Innovation Oregon Health & Science University.
Fitbit said the device is designed to be intuitive and simple to use, potentially reducing the stress on staff who are typically needed to operate a commercial ventilator.
The nation’s hospitals have reported shortages of equipment needed to care for critically ill coronavirus patients, including ventilators and personal protective equipment for medical staff, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.
Estimates of the number of ventilators in the U.S. 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,” the Journal said in a statement.