Fitbit Flow is a fan created by the company specialized in wearables. It has just been approved by the US FDA agency for use in emergencies such as the current pandemic COVID-19 and is another of the designs that different companies have created for this purpose.
The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus arrived as a cyclone and revealed the lack of medical equipment worldwide to treat the most seriously infected patients, even in public health systems as advanced as the Spanish one. We just weren’t ready.
Taking into account that the most serious complications of COVID-19 patients (like other coronaviruses) are related to respiratory problems such as pneumonia, mechanical fans are a fundamental part of sanitary equipment to provide assisted respiration and in critical cases, they completely replace the spontaneous lung ventilation of a human being by mechanical ventilation.
Once the shortage had been verified, different companies and teams, not specialized in sanitary equipment, but with design and production capacity, launched different projects to manufacture them. we have seen several. One of the most interesting was launched in Spain by HP and Seat. Also others from Tesla, Ford, General Motors, Maingear or those who use the Raspberry Pi Zero.
The Google company has also designed its own fan. Like the previous ones, they are “last resort” teams for emergency situations and they do not replace those equipped in facilities such as ICUs manufactured by specialized companies and that offer complete security for life support in critically ill patients who cannot perform spontaneous pulmonary ventilation, requiring intubation and artificial mechanical ventilation. Still, they can save lives in situations like a pandemic.
Fitbit Flow is very similar to other emergency fans. It pumps oxygen to the lungs when the patient needs it, controls the person’s response, and helps remove carbon dioxide exhaled from the lung. It uses the same type of resuscitation bags used by paramedics in an emergency, and monitors the condition of the patient and the operation of the device with a series of sensors and alerts. It can be used in a fixed location or on a mobile stand to carry it where required.
It has an easy to use interface and the most important thing is that will not require operators as specialized as ICU specialists. The company has promised “the same low price range” as other emergency respirators and looks forward to working with organizations around the world to manufacture the necessary units.
Their demand is unclear considering the other projects that are underway and that it may take weeks / months until they are available, but better that they remain. The NECSI Institute is compiling a worldwide strategic list of open source mechanical fans. They will surely not be available to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, but will allow us to be more prepared for upcoming outbreaks or other future pandemics that scientists do not exclude.