VitalFlo Device Simplifies Regular Monitoring of Breathing

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A multidisciplinary team of graduate students sponsored by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Nanosystems Engineering Research Center (NERC) for Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST), based at North Carolina State University (NCSU), has developed a compact, wireless hand-held spirometer – an apparatus for measuring the volume of air inspired into and expired out of the lungs. The VitalFlo device helps consumers monitor breathing more consistently while simultaneously educating users about the best ways to manage and treat changes in breath.

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Over 25 million Americans have been diagnosed with asthma; of those, 16 million are between age 18 and 64. Due to the longevity of asthma, it is ranked as one of the top five most expensive diseases, costing the US over $63 billion annually. Asthma can best be managed by monitoring one’s respiratory vitals using a peak flow meter (PFM).  However, while over 60% of asthmatics own a PFM, only about 35% actually use it regularly. VitalFlo is a compact device that integrates directly with a user’s smart phone to better address common usability barriers posed by standard PFMs.  VitalFlo’s innovative design improves the frequency and accuracy of lung capacity measurements, adding significant value for doctors and patients that further supports patients’ improved quality of life.


VitalFlo evolved from a Product Innovation Course offered at NCSU in the Fall of 2012; product development has continued with support from the NSF ASSIST Center ever since. “Our team was specifically interested in asthma prevention because of the vast number of people who suffer from asthmatic conditions. It wasn't until we were halfway through the design process that we discovered our device could also be used as a spirometer as well, opening up even more diagnostic opportunities." says James Dieffenderfer, a biomechanical engineering (BME) graduate student who developed VitalFlo. In addition to Dieffenderfer, the VitalFlo team includes Mike Brown, a Spring 2013 graduate of the Industrial Design graduate program, and Leigh Johnson, a Spring 2013 graduate of the Master of Business Administration (MBA) program.

A rapidly aging population, rising incidences of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), technical advances in the respiratory care devices market, and tight budgets of healthcare institutions are among the major factors influencing the US market for VitalFlo. Convenience and comfort in a home-care environment, coupled with cost advantages, are the major factors driving the home healthcare market for respiratory care devices. The VitalFlo team currently projects a total component cost of $17.37 per unit with a proposed retail price of $49.90.