Medical Open Source

April 20, 2020

The current COVID-19 crisis shows how fragile the economy is. Resilient corporations will strive, ones without means to react will dive. This crisis has produced not only losers but also several winners, among the top are Amazon and all physical delivery related companies, online retailers, and firms with little to no physical customer interaction in general. Another important industry that benefits from this crisis is the medical sector. Interestingly, medical open source has had its first public appearance in mainstream media when small projects began printing 3d components to build respirators and the like (see https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/london/pandemic-ventilator-design-covid19-1.5511412 and https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/31/science/coronavirus-masks-equipment-crowdsource.html). Governments throughout the world have called for makers to contribute.

But which other medical open source projects are out there? And what does regulations say about open source medical equipment? Despite heavy regulation, a crisis requires immediate action and regulation is overruled by pragmatism.

We also need to distinguish between open source software and open source hardware. An incomplete list about open source health software can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_open-source_health_software . OpenMRS tries to build a medical record system platform (https://openmrs.org/).

The Open Source foundation maintains a blog feed about health open source topics: https://opensource.com/tags/health and even Creative Commons has written about open-source medical hardware: https://creativecommons.org/2020/04/15/open-source-medical-hardware-what-you-should-know-and-what-you-can-do/.

Some projects are:

Even hackathons and other events related to open source medical hardware and software emerge:

There are many more open source projects out there. Many of these open source projects have what it takes to become a success. I find it fascinating how these OS projects want to avoid patent violations, copycats, and membership burnout. If there’s one future “unicorn” (or WIKIPEDIA if you like) among these, the world will benefit tremendously.

If you think about starting an Open Source project, read the open book Producing Open Source Software available for free at http://producingoss.com/en/index.html