Wearable device maker Fitbit is looking to join the list of companies that are making ventilators to be used on people infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Fitbit is soon submitting its technology to the Food and Drug Administration, for the ventilators to gain approval to be used specifically for COVID-19 patients, CEO James Park told CNBC.
Fitbit, which makes 10 million wearable devices every year, is planning to utilize its infrastructure and manufacturing capabilities to make ventilators. A spokesperson added that the company will work with a Taiwanese vendor to boost ventilator production as soon as FDA approval is received.
“There was a lot of concern about the shortage of ventilators and we realized we had expertise already around the supply chain,” Park said. The cost of the device, however, has not been finalized, though Park said it will be the “most advanced” emergency ventilator at a “lower” price point.
Oregon Health and Science University assistant professor of emergency medicine David Sheridan, who provided feedback along with several colleagues on Fitbit’s plans, told CNBC that the final version of Fitbit’s ventilator will be “somewhere in the middle” of an emergency ventilator and a premium-grade one, which cost between $20,000 to $50,000 each.
U.S. hospitals suffered from severe shortages of ventilators during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, as they were unprepared for the influx of patients that will require the medical devices due to breathing problems.
The shortage has spurred companies from outside the health industry to help by using their expertise and manufacturing capabilities to produce ventilators. The list includes car manufacturers such as Fiat Chrysler, Tesla, and General Motors, as well as home appliances maker Dyson and even NASA — though each with different results from their respective projects.
The U.S. is now facing a surplus of ventilators, according to the Associated Press. However, if COVID-19 cases surge again, demand for the medical devices will likewise increase, which Fitbit will be looking to help fill both locally and internationally.