echOpen - Open Source handheld Echo-stéthoscope

I started my journey as a science and economics student. After graduation, I spent years working for French and international industrial companies, after which I quit and went on to work in the humanitarian field throughout Southeast Asia. With the arrival of new technologies and the community approach using the Internet to connect people, it became clear to me that there are now widespread and relatively cheap tools of empowerment readily available. Upon my return to Europe, I decided to work on the development of such ideas. This led to the inception of the echOpen project.

The idea started from a chat among friends, an engineer (Luc) previously employed in the ultrasound industry, a mathematician and physician (Mehdi) and a radiologist (Pierre). We discussed smartphones: widespread devices that are more sophisticated than the computers that sent people to the moon a few decades ago.

How could we use this technology to improve health care, considering that now almost everyone have one in his/her pocket?

This idea emerged as a combination of our passion for open technology and community engagement. Using technologies that have existed since the 70s,with a bit of tweaking, are cheap and perfectly functional to make this idea come true. We then give access to these tools and knowledge to anyone interested, and to encourage them to try new things out.

This is how our mission came about. We plan to develop the very first Open Source, affordable ultrasound probe (echo-stethoscope) dedicated to diagnosis orientation, based on open source hardware and software principles. It will be cheaper than any of the fancy machines you can find on the market. There already are some ultraportable ultrasound scanners out there, but they cost several thousand Euros  our goal is to divide the price by 10-15 times. This device will be able to produce a medical image that you can then transport to your smartphone or laptop. It’s a device that every health care professional will want to carry in their pocket - allowing for faster and more accurate diagnosis orientation, which means faster and better medical care. As a preventive tool, it will reduce the number of patients who need emergency help. It can save the lives of mothers who die in developing countries during their pregnancies. Our tool will also spark more interactions between professionals and patients.

We launched the project in late 2014, but the actual work really began in August 2015. Hosted by the hospital Hotel Dieu, right next to the Notre Dame in Paris, we have an open space with an interesting, eclectic ecosystem of researchers, community members, senior professionals working in the technical and medical areas of ultrasound technology, radiologists, experts in echography, medical laboratories, universities, and schools, etc.

Earlier this year, we developed a functional prototype of the tool - it works, but the quality of the image is not satisfactory. With the involvement of more than 200 people, mostly from France but also in Asia, Africa, and the Americas, we are now improving the quality of echOpen. Our deadline to complete the new medical-quality prototype is this December.

Our project has been supported by the Fondation Pierre Fabre, which believes in our approach and that our concept could be used in Africa, where doctors lack medical imaging devices. They provide financial support and other resources - and the more we have, the faster and more efficiently we can do our work.

We are constantly looking for both funding and new profiles to get involved within the community, anyone from developers, to designers, engineers, legal experts, and community managers. We are also working on making our wiki more accessible to English-speaking members. If you have some ideas, tips, or want to share similar work with us - leave a comment or contact us.

How do you guys deal with safety and regulation issues?

@Olivier hi, welcome on board. Are you part of the group coming together later this month to explore open alternatives in (e)health and healthcare support?

I’m adding here two recent opensource projects that we know of for medical treatment, and which you might enjoy connecting with.

  1. Open source game apps as solutions to respiratory diseases!
  2. Efforts to open up software eg pacemakers for heart conditions to enable increased security by the logic of: more access -> more resilience and better quality. It would be very appreciated if you could jump in and tell us how you cover the regulatory issues so that your product can actually be used. For example, what part of your code will you certify and does the fact that it's opensource make it more reliable or not for its future uses?

@Noemi, thank you for your comment. Safety and regulation are very important for us and as a community and a non-for-profit, we plan on setting up partnerships to deal with these issues. I mean regulation will be more the concern of manufacturers and distributors. Luckily we have within the community 3 people expert in regulation issues in medical devices development and we work accodring to the principle of “regulation by design” as well as “safety by design” ;) we first considered regulation and safety and build our development according to the main guidelines.

Then i haven’t heard about the group about exploring open alternatives in (e)health and healthcare support. Could tell me more ?

Finally, thank you for both links, they are very interesting.

The group I meant is OPENandChange

With this effort of reaching out and connecting groups doing outstanding work at the edge of health/ social care we are doing workshops in several cities in Europe, and one is in Paris on the 25th of September with more open science and tech projects. Will you be joining?

@Nadia may know best who else in the community is going to be there.

I’m in Brussels the day before and probably won’t come, but still very interested.

Oh, thanks for the reply. “regulation by design”… this is new to me and I hardly get what it means, so when you have some time do tell.

Also ping Maria for future activities involving echOPEN

@Maria I thought what these guys are doing might interest you over at SCIMPulse and your planned prototyping events this fall :-)

Great project

@Noemi thanks for highlighting the project echOPEN. :slight_smile: