Making the Case for Open Source Medical Devices

Engineering for medical, automotive, and aerospace is highly regulated. It’s not difficult to see why: lives are often at stake when devices in these fields fail. The cost of certifying and working within established regulations is not insignificant and this is likely the main reason we don’t see a lot of work on Open Hardware in these areas.

Ashwin K. Whitchurch wants to change this and see the introduction of simple but important Open Source medical devices for those who will benefit the most from them. His talk at the Hackaday Superconference explores the possible benefits of Open Medical devices and the challenges that need to be solved for success.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Elderly Autonomous Fall Detection

For his Hackaday Prize entry, [having11] is building a simple and cheap fall detection notification button that can be worn by senior citizens, young kids or others affected by medical conditions. [having11] did some fact-finding, and it appears that falls are one of the leading causes of injury for seniors, according to data available from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This device will sense a fall and send a text message or email to a recipient caregiver, loved one, or friend. The notification can also be manually triggered using a pushbutton. There’s a 5-second delay before it actually sends the alert, allowing a false trigger to be canceled. On receiving the alert, the recipient can decide how to proceed and if the situation requires a call to emergency services.

The device uses an ESP8266, a MPU6050 MEMS gyro-accelerometer combo, and MyDevices Cayenne IoT service. The Cayenne IoT service is free for Makers and non-commercial use at the moment. The only other components needed are a few discretes and a small LiPo battery, keeping the cost of the device under $10. The whole assembly is housed in a 3D printed enclosure. The next steps would probably be to make it more compact and design a housing that can be worn as an arm or chest band or on a waist belt. An important requirement of such monitoring devices is being able to notify when/before it is unable to fulfill its primary requirements. Towards that end, maybe adding a low battery and low WiFi signal strength indicators would be nice.

If you have more suggestions on making this better, chime in with your comments below.

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Nurses Create in a Medical Makerspace

Although there are many skilled and dedicated types of health care professionals, nurses are often the main point of contact between the medical establishment and a patient. You will probably spend more time with your nurse–especially in a hospital setting–than any other health care provider. Every patient’s needs are different, so it isn’t surprising that nurses sometimes improvise unique solutions to help their patients be more comfortable or recover faster.

That’s the idea guiding an innovative program called MakerNurse–an initiative backed by MIT and the Robert W. Johnson Foundation. The idea is to encourage nurses to be makers. One of the project’s cofounders, Anna Young, had found nurses in Central America making do with what they had on hand and naturally acting as makers. “We saw a nurse repair a stethoscope diaphragm with an overhead transparency,” she said. Young noted that often nurses didn’t realize the significance of their making–it was just how they got through the day.

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We Have a Problem: Health Care Where There Are No Health Care Workers

Hackaday, we have a problem. There are a lot of people on this earth and not a lot of health care workers. Let’s use our skills to help alleviate this problem. What can we do to give medical professionals a wider reach, to bridge the distances between hospital and patient, and make it easier for bystanders to administer lifesaving care.

Scope of the Problem

We’d wager that your most recent and vivid remembrance of a health care worker shortage is the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The shortage of trained professionals and supplies certainly compounded the situation in the countries worst hit. But it didn’t create the problem. Check out this list of doctors per 1,000 people (sorted lowest-to-highest with 2010 numbers). The three countries hit hardest by the outbreak — Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone — register a whopping 0.0 doctors for every 1000 people. Yeah, that’s years before the outbreak.

Keep scrolling down and you’ll see that this isn’t limited to one geographic location. All over the world there are low numbers, with India and Iraq both at 0.6, and interestingly Cuba and Qatar topping the list at 6.7 and 7.7 respectively.

This isn’t a statistics post so let’s pivot. The point is made that we’re a large world population. What kind of engineering solutions can we wield to help provide everyone with the care they need? Leave your comments below but also considered entering the Hackaday Prize with them. Write down your idea as a Hackaday.io project and tag it 2015 Hackaday Prize.

Proof That We Can Do This

firstmedic-510-aedIt’s safe to say we’ve all seen engineering solve part of this problem already. Over the last decade, Automatic External Defibrillators have become ubiquitous. The life-saving hardware is designed to be used by non-doctors to save someone whose heart rhythms have become irregular. [Chris Nefcy] helped develop AEDs and one ended up saving his life. If that’s not proof that we can change the world with our builds we don’t know what is.

Pull on that thinking cap and jump into this conversation. What can we build? What problems need to be solved right now? Where should each of us be looking to make a difference in the availability of health care in the absence of the trained professionals?


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by: