Last week, during a flight, I’ve come accross a nice article about Opensource Medical Devices. I’ve never heard about it before. So I decided to search this interesting topic and learn a little more.
My first concern was: is it relevant to go opensource for such a critical usage? Med devices such as PaceMaker, Drug Infusion Pump are powered by software written in thousands (80,000 and 170,000) of lines of code. An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is said to require around 7 million lines of code. This is huge and sounds very complex. These software are just like other ones. They may experience bugs and any other failure. This is inherent to any computer program. Even software used by NASA to go to the moon have experienced bugs during the Appollo program.
On the other hand, opensource is the way now. Why shouldn’t it be applied to the healthcare? Why not benefit from the huge opensource community developpers? For this point, it is interesting to see all contribution made to Healthcare by the opensource community. Shahid N. Shah is an internationally recognized and influential government technology and healthcare IT thought leader and writer who is known as “The Healthcare IT Guy” across the Internet. I read his blogs and posts and came to the final idea that this opensource model applied to healthcare is yet to grow and to be more critical.
Just to rise the importance of the topic, The first Open-Source Medical Devices (OSMD) Conference was held at the Morgridge Institute for Research/Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at the University of Wisconsin–Madison on December 1, 2011.
In the USA, powerful the FDA is going open and is working with other organizations to set open standards for interconnecting devices from different manufacturers. This would mean that, say, a blood-pressure cuff could instruct a drug pump to stop delivering medication if it sensed that a patient was suffering an adverse reaction.
But open source medical devices already exist: an open-source surgical robot called Raven, designed at the University of Washington in Seattle, provides an affordable platform for researchers around the world to experiment with new techniques and technologies for robotic surgery.
Open source medical devices should be the next great challenge in the healthcare industry. should it benefit the whole world as opensource software, it would be a wonderful contribution of the community to the World.
In the meantime, there are moves afoot to improve the overall security and reliability of software in medical devices. America’s National Institute of Standards and Technology has just recommended that a single agency, probably the FDA, should be responsible for approving and tracking cybersecurity in medical devices, and the FDA is re-evaluating its ability to cope with the growing use of software. Such changes cannot happen too soon. “When a plane falls out of the sky, people notice,” says Dr Fu. “But when one or two people are hurt by a medical device, or even if hundreds are hurt in different parts of the country, nobody notices.” With more complex devices, more active hackers and more inquisitive patients, opening up the hidden heart of medical technology makes a great deal of sense.