The explosion of the COVID-19 pandemic in the late winter of 2020, revealed a desperate shortage of ventilators to treat a growing number of patients impacted by the disease. In response to this need, a group of Seattle-based volunteer clinicians, designers, engineers, and philanthropists came together to form a unique non-profit humanitarian organization called the World Ventilator Foundation. At the heart of this organization was the design and development of a new low-cost emergency response ventilator. The WorldVent ventilator is a streamlined, mechanical ICU pandemic ventilator that performs the same life-saving function as highly-technical ICU ventilators at a fraction of the cost. It is lightweight, has a highly-intuitive controls, and can be rapidly and easily produced, facilitating the treatment of COVID-19 patients experiencing respiratory failure. The modular design is meant to operate in a range of medical facilities from hospitals, field hospitals, and even austere environments with limited medical personnel and infrastructure.
More than a year later, the pandemic continues to impact large populations and especially communities with limited resources. Access to healthcare can vary greatly around the world and this pandemic has shown that it is even worse in times of a global crisis. This ventilator and the non-profit behind it, is designed specifically to address this access problem.
Problem / Solution: The explosion of the COVID-19 pandemic in the late winter of 2020, revealed a desperate shortage of ventilators to treat a growing number of patients impacted by the disease. Many of the existing ventilators were too costly to acquire in large quantities, require considerable training and maintenance and could not be operated reliably if stored for long periods. The WorldVent ventilator addresses all of these issues.
Although there have been a number of COVID-19 related ventilator projects, this device is a unique streamlined, mechanical ICU pandemic ventilator that performs the same life-saving function as highly-technical ICU ventilators but at 1/10th the cost. Designed to be used in medical facilities ranging from hospitals, field hospitals, and even austere environments with limited medical personnel and infrastructure. It is compact and lightweight (14lb), has a highly-intuitive controller, and can be rapidly and easily produced, facilitating the treatment of patients experiencing respiratory failure in low-resource communities. Widely deployable with fewer than 150 readily-available parts, so that no individual part limits production (ventilators typically have over 2,000 parts). The modular design allows for two potential configurations, minimal service and independent control module replacement. Requiring less than 20 minutes of training to operate the ventilator includes controls for the ventilatory rate, depth of breath (tidal volume), oxygen level (FIO2), peak inspiratory pressure, and positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) while including safety alarms and battery backup in the upper module. This is coupled with locking knob controls and consistent wide viewing angle digital presentations of key data prioritize situational management during treatment. Designed to be lightweight and compact for easy transportation of patient the ventilator can also be mounted at, bedside or on a pole providing the medical provider the flexibility to operate in a range of treatment locations. The versatile device also allows for both in-hospital oxygen supplies and portable gas tanks.
A Product and Non-Profit with a Global Focus: Access to healthcare can vary greatly around the world and this pandemic has shown it's even worse in times of a global crisis. Initially launched as a COVID-19 emergency ventilator, as the pandemic has stabilized in portions of the world, this emergency has brought to light the disparity in medical resources found around the globe and the need for affordable and reliable ventilators extends beyond this pandemic. Recent reporting by the New York Times highlighted that 41 countries in Africa had less than 2,000 working ventilators to serve hundreds of millions of people. For instance, in Malawi 48 people out of 100,000 annual deaths in the country, die from lower respiratory tract infections in contrast to 14 per 100,000 deaths globally or 1.8 per 100,000 annual deaths in the United States. The availability of a streamlined ventilator whose safe use requires about 20 minutes of training and little if any local technical or maintenance support could significantly impact these outcomes. As World Ventilator Foundation is a non-profit, the company has a singular aim to provide accessible ventilators around the globe even those locations where a typical for-profit company has little interest and particularly those underserved communities impacted by COVID-19.