Health Care

Trends and Predictions

With the wealth of sensor information and ability to integrate, open hardware has a natural synergy with health care. However, due to implied liability issues, there is concern over the immaturity of licenses to protect open hardware designers. Instead of being used for treatment, several open hardware projects have started to help patients cope with chronic conditions.

David van Sickle, the CEO of Reciprocal Labs and leader of the Open Spirometry project has posited 8 needs that must be satisfied in order to open hardware to make an impact in the health care field.

- Aggregate information on open hardware projects in global health to maximize participation and activity.
- Involve students eager to learn and apply their skills to real-world health problems.
- Develop innovative funding strategies that anticipate sizable requirements and unique opportunities.
- Broaden participation to create non-obvious but essential project scaffolding.
- This includes regulatory affairs.
- Create global health technology incubators to advise and fund open hardware projects.
- Help teams build and appropriately license solutions that are defensible against infringement claims.

Health Care Equipment & Supplies


All aspects of the Health care industry are heavily regulated, with new technology often taking years to pass safety inspection. The FDA is currently responsible for auditing and ensuring the safety of healthcare devices. Still, a paper from 2008 cites the vulnerability of wireless pacemakers/defibrillators to malicious attack. Karen Sandler of the Software Freedom Law Center (who has a pacemaker herself) has recognized the need for open design and open software in the health care devices. She asserts that an application of Linus's Law is needed for these devices since they are surgically implanted and their reliability has life or death consequences. She has advocated for patients to be granted the ability to view and modify the source code of implanted medical devices, though concedes this idea requires further investigation and research

Arduino Sip and Puff

Sip and puff systems are often used for quadriplegics and people with ALS to control motorized wheelchairs. Instructables user "kayakdiver" has created an instructable for assembling an open source sip and puff controller.


A group of artists and technologists have teamed up to create a system which allows ALS patients to communicate and write using eye movements to trace letters.

Health care Distributors

Any shift to open hardware would result in a radical change to the supply chain, and would therefore affect wholesalers and distributors of medical products.



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