Fitbit recently announced a significant development of a high-quality, low-cost, easy-to-use emergency ventilator, named Fitbit Flow. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company created the ventilator, which obtained Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for use during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
‘Push the boundaries of innovation and creativity’
Fitbit applied its deep in-house experts and researchers in advanced sensor development and hardware design to create Fitbit Flow quickly, an automatic resuscitator inspired by the MIT E-Vent Design Toolbox and based on specifications for Rapidly Manufactured Ventilation Systems. Fitbit consulted with Oregon Health & Science University emergency medicine clinicians during the development and testing process, collaborated with the specialists who are caring for COVID-19 patients at OHSU Hospital, and worked with the Mass General Brigham Center for COVID Innovation working group on the design.
"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."
The Fitbit Flow ventilator 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 an automatic and simple-to-use tool and would reduce the strain on specialized staff required to assist and operate a commercial ventilator.
Fitbit Flow isn’t a long term solution
"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. We must develop solutions that can help ensure health systems have the equipment they need now, and in the future if we do see a resurgence of COVID-19," said David Sheridan, MD, MCR, Assistant Professor of Pediatric Emergency Medicine and Co-Director of Emergency Clinical Innovation Oregon Health & Science University.
The Fitbit Flow isn't a long-term solution as the conventional ventilators would still be required. Instead, the Fitbit Flow is intended to act as a temporary stopgap keeping patients alive until they can be put on a standard machine. "We know from some conversations that physicians are already trying to work out the ethics in deciding who gets the ventilator and who doesn't, due to shortage of supply," said Dr. Tony Faranesh, a Fitbit research scientist who helped develop the ventilator. "The goal here is to support life if one's not available until one might become available."
Fitbit company aims at leveraging the vast infrastructure and manufacturing capabilities of the organization. The company currently produces millions of Fitbit devices every year to quickly produce large volumes of these emergency devices. The goal is to supply these devices to health care systems across the world. Fitbit Flow is designed to be used only when a traditional commercial ventilator is not available.
Fitbit is also in talks with state and federal agencies to understand the current domestic needs for emergency ventilators and further plans to work with the U.S. and global aid organizations on the pandemic. Though world governments are gradually easing lockdown restrictions, the coronavirus pandemic is still going on. As of 3rd June, the World Health Organisation reported approximately 6.3 million confirmed cases globally, including 380,000 deaths. The United States accounts for the most substantial proportion of the COVID-19 numbers, with around 1.8 million cases and 105,000 deaths, and thousands more are diagnosed daily.