echOpen-the hand-held ultrasound

Over the past decade with technological advances in ultrasound allowing what was once a large machine to become essentially a hand-held device. With this convenience, of ultraportable ultrasound scanners came the cost of several thousand euros. In the operating room, surgeons can in real time see inside the human body using advanced imaging techniques, but primary care givers, the healthcare professionals in those remote areas who are on the front lines of diagnosing illnesses, haven't had access to the same technology. How could we use technology to improve health care making it low-cost and affordable?

Smartphone Ultrasound

According to Olivier De Fresnoye, combining the use technology, community and a device that almost everyone has in his/her pocket, they should be able to do just that. Being able to produce a medical image that can then transport to a smartphone or laptop, making it an affordable hand-held echo-stethoscope. It’s a device that every health care provider will want to carry in their pocket - allowing for faster and more accurate diagnosis, which means faster and better medical care. Saving the lives of mothers who die in developing countries during their pregnancies and create more interactions between professionals and patients. Portable ultrasound machines are typically used in situations where the immediate space is limited and mobility is important, or the scanning must be done in the field. Making portability a key issue.

Let’s meet echOpen

Olivier De Fresnoye, Innovator and adviser spent many years working in International and Industrial companies before entering the humanitarian field in Southeast Asia. It was during this time that he acknowledged that with technology and an open community to connect people, most of the tools were already in place to empower healthcare providers. 

The idea started out as a discussion between friends: an engineer, a mathematician, physician and a radiologist. As the discussion started with smartphones it ended in a question: How could we use smartphone technology to improve health care, considering that now almost everyone have one?  This idea emerged as a combination of their passion for open technology and community engagement. Using technologies already in existence, with a bit of modification is economical and perfectly functional to make their idea come true. 

Open source hardware

echOpen is an Open Source and collaborative project led by a core of experts and senior professionals that aims to develop the first Open Source Hardware and low cost ultrasound probe connected to a smartphone or tablet. This initiative is aimed to healthcare professionals in emerging countries as well as in developed countries,
The collaboration of professionals are in an open space with an ecosystem of researchers, community members, professionals in ultrasound technology an, radiologists, echography and medical laboratories. Through collaboration their vision is being realized.

“We strongly believe that Open Source and affordable approach and principles in medical devices are the means by which quality healthcare can be provided to all”, says Olivier De Fresnoye

The echOpen initiative echOpen is supported by the Fondation Pierre Fabre, with the support that the concept could be used in Africa, where doctors lack medical imaging devices. Mr. De Fresnoye and his team is planning to design the first medical prototype by 2017 to launch clinical trials with their medical partners and produce the first product. The widespread innovative use of mobile technologies it’s allowing initiatives like echOpen to improve health and health care delivery.

This could be a game changer.  It’s quick and easy to use. It can expedite diagnosis. With some countries not having access to ultrasound, due to the cost or not being portable enough. This initiative could be putting imaging within the economic reach of healthcare professionals globally. 

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