The majority of the world's medical care facilities and research labs have limited access to optimal tools because of the exorbitant prices of proprietary equipment. This results in both reduced acute public health and slows the rate of medical science hampering future public health. The tremendous success of free and open source software in driving innovation and lowering costs has spread to the world of hardware. Free and open-source hardware (FOSH) provides the "code" for hardware including the bill of materials, schematics, instructions, computer aided designs (CAD), and other information needed to recreate a physical artifact. FOSH has already led to improved product innovation and reduced costs in a wide range of fields and can go far beyond simply sharing data in the medical community. By combining digital manufacturing such as 3-D printing with open-source microcontrollers, hundreds of high-quality low-cost medical and scientific tools have already been developed. Scientists and medical equipment engineers can design, share and build on one another's work to develop better and less costly medical devices. Such latterly scaled replication saves 90-99% of traditional costs. This article summarizes medical research policy to encourage maximizing the return on investment of public funding for medical equipment development by: 1) identifying, funding and disseminating FOSH design of the most costly medical equipment, 2) funding validation studies of this equipment, and 3) enacting purchasing policy preferences for FOSH. Past results indicate that these policies will directly save millions of dollars of public funding for health care, while supporting rapid innovation in medical equipment design.
Keywords[edit | edit source]
open hardware; libre hardware; open source; open source hardware; medical equipment; research equipment; laboratory hardware; science policy