VOX Ventilator

The global COVID-19 pandemic drastically altered our lives and focus around the world, drawing our attention to critical needs in healthcare that had long gone overlooked. As elective and non-essential surgeries were cancelled to free up hospital space and resources for patients critically ill with the coronavirus, a group of anesthesiologists at Mass General Hospital (MGH) found themselves in an unprecedented position to help their colleagues address a critical issue looming on the horizon—a global shortage of ventilators. The MGH anesthesiologists and residents developed a challenge to bring an adaptable ventilator design that demonstrates rapid deployment, safety, and cost economy to market: The CoVent19 Challenge. This competition, designed to foster collaboration and innovation, relies on the time-tested truth that coming together to create new solutions to a crisis can be key in fostering breakthroughs.

fuseproject, in partnership with CIONIC, a medical device and technology start-up, and several independent mechanical engineering (ME) consultants, banded together to respond to the open innovation challenge. More than 200 teams from 43 different countries submitted their concepts, and our submission was selected as one of seven to build working prototypes for the final round of judging. The final design, dubbed VOX, is a rapidly deployable, pneumatically driven ventilator that prioritizes modularity, uses off-the-shelf solutions, and is optimized for a Covid-19 healthcare context. VOX costs less than $1,000 to produce and can be assembled in under 4 hours.

strategy

Driving our unique approach to the design was the investment made at project onset to familiarize ourselves with the existing user experience of respiratory therapists, ICU nurses, and doctors running ventilators. By taking the time to meet and interview healthcare professionals on how they were using ventilators, our team was able to glean deep insight and identify key opportunities for improvement. We explored mobility challenges, transportation and storage, cord management safety, alarm management and policies, and ventilator settings. Research insights, synthesized in partnership with industrial designers, engineers, interaction designers, and technologists, formed the foundation for user-first design opportunities that made the final outcome stand apart from other engineering-driven solutions.

product

While ventilator care can be a life-supporting treatment, it can also cause fatal injuries from overstretching or force-inflation. This is a particular area of concern with the usage of plastic bag-valve resuscitators, also called Ambu bags, which have the potential to fluctuate in shape over time and develop variability in its delivery of ventilation. VOX’s pneumatic valve ventilation system offers the most reliable, consistent, and safe method of supplying oxygen and is designed around three key principles:

Intuitive user experience. VOX utilizes the ubiquitous IV pole to enable speedy and simple mounting, height adjustability for user comfort, easy transport, and efficient storage. Its built-in dashboard functionality allows for remote monitoring and operability from a single desktop computer or tablet for up to 4 ventilators, which drastically reduces personal exposure to disease and contamination. Leveraging existing and familiar user behaviors, VOX is also fully functional from the device itself through a user-friendly touchscreen monitor, oxygen boost & alarm silencing buttons, and rotary dial for intuitive navigation, incremental adjustments, and legibility across generations of healthcare professionals. Simple alert statuses with streamlined management pairs banner messaging with highlighted alerts for quick scanning and comprehension. Volume control and sound signatures are also available by alarm type.

Simplified architecture. Ventilators provide an incredible range of capabilities and features. VOX enables exploration of alternative technologies to tailor functionality based on individual setting needs. Its pneumatic system leverages existing pressurized air systems in place of mechanical actuation, offers a lighter and more manageable form factor, and has built-in overpressure relief.

Intelligent manufacturing. The real opportunity behind VOX lies in delivering a product that can be made quickly, by implementing simple manufacturing processes and affordable off the shelf components. Production of its 3D printed elements utilizes advanced polyjet printing technologies for abridged assembly and reduced cost. Combining VOX’s outer shell and housing, the unit leverages multi-material and multi-color printing to produce the venting, fasteners for assembly, Venturi tubes, and UI details like buttons and icons. All components were specified for critical size and form. Aluminum was selected deliberately for the front and back plates (single bend for front plate) for durability and protection. The simple assembly of VOX is defined by its minimal use of fasteners, lack of adhesives, and modularization of its production workflow.

experience

A refined and customizable approach to the UI flow allows VOX to adapt to each unique hospital or medical settings’ workflows, processes, and capacities, which allows for flexible use cases from a single manufacturing model. VOX’s multi-device dashboard capability means it can be operated remotely, opening up the possibility of a screen-free device that is significantly smaller in volume, faster and more cost effective to assemble, and easier to sanitize. RTs, ICU nurses, and doctors are able to control the ventilator from a single location if and when in-person patient care is not necessary. Low resource contexts or overburdened hospitals can opt for the no-screen version of VOX and use external mixing—easing overall hospital foot traffic, cost of production, and complexity of patient care processes. VOX is not only a simplified and streamlined ventilator design with robust functionality, but also a product that has the potential to drive new user behaviors that can result in time, cost, and material savings.

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