Global Heatlhcare system is complex but broken. Despite huge advances in medical technology a large fraction of world population (some would argue more than 2/3rd of it) does not have access to quality healthcare. Among other things, part of this disparity originates from high cost of buying, operating and maintaining proprietary and closed medical equipment. Higher cost of medical equipment is often attributed to cost incurred to do research & develop and to take the devices through regulatory approvals.
Research and development in medical devices, as it stands today, is largely done in-house in big and small companies and then shackled in patents by them, who may or may not use them in foreseeable future.
Heavy regulation of medical devices, to some extent, ensure the patient safety, but comes at a heavy cost both in terms of time and money – and yet this is not foolproof as shown by growing number of medical device recalls incidents post marketing approval. Regulatory processes, as they stand today, permit medical device manufactures hide the information on device hardware and software, which implies that the device function can never be fully scrutinized independently.
Isn’t it time for change? Is there another way to develop medical devices faster, at correct price point and with appropriate quality standards? I believe, the answer lies in fully adopting the open source model for medical devices as well. By doing everything in a collaboration mode and not hiding information, the pace of innovation in medical devices can be ramped up. The cost of shared across community and unnecessary duplication of effort is avoided. Finally, quality of the open source designs can be scrutinized much more thoroughly as everything is kept in open.
Isn’t open source meant for software? The concept of open source is as applicable to hardware as it is applicable to software. When dealing with open source hardware, one has to leave all the information about how the hardware is put together in public domain – for anyone to copy, modify and use as per their requirement. Very much like public licenses for open source software, open source hardware communities is coming together to define standards for open source hardware licences.
OpenMedDev is online resource for Open Source Medical Devices. Currently it is just a one man effort, but hopefully will be able to join forces with like minded people and organizations in future. Please post a comment below section to get in touch.