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Medicine Open Source

Interviews: Ask Dr. Tarek Loubani About Creating Ultra-Low Cost Medical Devices 54

Tarek Loubani is an emergency medicine physician who works as a consultant doctor in the emergency departments in London, Canada and Shifa Hospital in Gaza. He is also an assistant professor at the Department of Medicine at the University of Western Ontario. Tarek has been working in Gaza for the past 5 years, where he made news recently by creating a 3D-printable, 30-cent stethoscope that is better than the world's best $200 equivalent. The need to develop free and open medical devices due to the lack of medical supplies resulting from the blockade, inspired Loubani who hopes the stethoscope is just the beginning of replacing expensive proprietary medical tools. Tarek has agreed to answer any questions you might have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
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Interviews: Ask Dr. Tarek Loubani About Creating Ultra-Low Cost Medical Devices

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  • We're working on getting smartphones to detect bone fractures. Who do I give this to? https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com] very preliminary
  • A significant amount of the effort on a medical device is the 510k submission

    What is the market value of a person who is familiar with this process?

    Normally it is looked at as a niche market with little demand, but it seems to me that an independent group that does 510k submission for multiple device developers would have an opportunity

    • A significant amount of the effort on a medical device is the 510k submission

      That particular stumbling block doesn't apply to 95% of the planet.

      This guy was inspired by his work in Gaza.

    • This is why the first place you want to drive the whole idea of open source, low cost medical devices is in developing-world markets where there is a desperate need. Volume manufacturing can be done in countries which are higher up on the development chain, enough to have decent manufacturing facilities.

      The only way the US or European "markets" will accept something like this is if it becomes an unstoppable fait accompli in the rest of the world.

  • by ciaran2014 ( 3815793 ) on Wednesday August 19, 2015 @12:31PM (#50348145) Homepage

    Most activities that can be performed commercially but which can also be performed non-commercially are either exempt from patents or never get prosecuted. Fixing other people's bicycles, writing a book, and performing music come to mind. (Software development is a grey area.) But 3D printing is taking an activity where efficient production on any reasonable scale was pretty much the exclusive domain of businesses, and making it accessible to DIY-ers and people who would do it while doing their job or performing some task at home, without any direct commercial aspect. Any idea what stage the debate is at regarding patent restrictions on printing or distributing designs for things more complicated or more modern than stethoscopes?

  • by mrops ( 927562 ) on Wednesday August 19, 2015 @12:44PM (#50348241)

    It seems there are a lot of restrictions on what can be imported into gaza as there is a risk technologies might fall into terrorist hands and used for nefarious purpose. Under this, is it really possible to import a 3D printer into gaza for such tasks?

    • 1) You can build a 3d printer easily out of scrap parts, its not complicated.
      2) Most 3d printer tech comes from india and china, who dont have the same problems with shipping stuff to that part of the world.
      3) if you want to a 3d printer can be broken down into a bunch of small parts that are easily smuggled.

  • Your 30-cent stethoscope seems to be an excellent example of "Intermediate Technology" (or "Appropriate Technology") as popularized by Dr Hans Schumacher in his influential book, Small is Beautiful.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appropriate_technology [wikipedia.org]

    Do you think that 3D printing will become increasingly important in the third world with regards to improving basic medicine, agriculture etc?

  • I am guessing this technology can be used to print needles as well. Well... everything but the actual metal needle part. Maybe that will be printable in the near future? Or is there something other than steel that can be used for the needle to do injections?

  • Ultra-Low Cost Medical Devices*

    *for entertainment purposes only, in the USA.

  • by fortunatus ( 445210 ) on Wednesday August 19, 2015 @02:42PM (#50349187)

    While reviewing the online repository for the stethoscope design, I saw that mainly it's the sound gathering part that is 3D printed. The rest is - reasonably - made out of regular stuff. So then, with some regular stuff, can't local people figure out how to make stethoscopes? They really can't figure out that one sound gathering piece? It takes a doctor/hacker to come from some land far away bearing the URL to a 3D printable part to solve the problem?

  • by McLae ( 606725 ) on Wednesday August 19, 2015 @02:58PM (#50349323) Homepage
    With all the allergies to various materials, such as nickle and latex, what materials can be 3d-printed that are medically inert? Surgical instruments are stainless steel, implants are titanium, how do you print these? It seems another whole line of questions to find proper materials that can be printed.
  • I've read there are other 3D-printed stethoscopes. Is yours (the Gila 3D stethoscope) attracting attention because it's better, or cheaper, or because it's actually getting used? Or is the Gila 3D stethoscope getting attention not for what it is but for it being an example from a domain where 3D seems set to bring radical change?

    • This question didn't spring to mind at first. Seems a bit basic. But I wrote it because a lot of the comments so far indicate that people (myself included) don't know a hell of a lot about this project other than that it exists.

  • I have ideas for several medical devices.
    But what is the most cost effective way to get them in hands of Doctors ?

    Does the exist an doctor equivalent of Slashdot where you can post a story about it or buy ads ?

    • If they could be used by veterinarians, that would be a good starting place. There are fewer laws/restrictions regarding equipment used in a veterinary practice.
  • What other devices would you like and what do you think is attainable during these methods?

    I personally work in (research) MRI and regularly create custom solutions and thus I know the difference in cost between creating a device (eg. AV presentation, stimulus response, infant tactile stimulus) vs. buying the commercial model(s). Usually, even if you factor in labor, the difference is one to several orders of magnitude different.

    What are countries/regions missing desperately simply due to their retail cost

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