After being forced to hold his ear to the chests of victims due to a lack of stethoscopes at medical facilities in the Gaza strip, where he works as an emergency physician, Tarek Loubani decided that it was time to take matters into his own hands.
With no formal training in product design or engineering, Loubani – together with a team of other medical and technology specialists – designed a 3D printable stethoscope that costs just $5 in materials and supplies. Soon after testing the design against the global standard benchmarks of significantly more expensive traditional stethoscopes, they determined that its performance not only met the benchmarks set by the gold-standard 3M™ Littmann® Cardiology III™ stethoscope – it exceeded them.
“I had to hold my ear to the chests of victims because there were no good stethoscopes, and that was a tragedy, a travesty, and unacceptable,” Loubani recently declared at a presentation in Germany.
Little did he know at the time, but Loubani was laying the foundation of what would become the start of an entirely new approach to medical device design and fabrication: GliaX.
Similar to how snippets of code are shared on GitHub for programmers to openly download and use for free within their projects, Loubani and his team are aiming to create something similar for medical devices that not only offer a more affordable alternative – assuming that the devices have gone through proper testing and are adequate to use – but are also able to be easily fabricated in the field during times of crisis.
So far, GliaX has created three medical device designs that can be openly downloaded, shared, printed and used under the TAPR Open Hardware License (OHL). These include the GliaX Stethoscope (for listening to internal sounds), the GliaX Pulse Oximeter (for monitoring oxygen saturation) and the GliaX ECG (for measuring the heart’s electrical conduction system). Although 3D printing is used prominently throughout their platform, GliaX also aims to make use of printed circuit boards (PCBs) that can be produced in low-resource settings with simple methods.
Unsurprisingly, the efforts from Loubani and the rest of the GliaX team have already proven to be a hit with field and hospital practitioners across the modern and developing world who have tested beta units in hospitals and in the field over the last six months.
“We made a list of these things, that if I could bring them into Gaza, into the third world in which I work and live, then I felt like I could change the lives of my patients,” explained Loubani in a recent interview with Vice. “I wanted the people I work with to take it, and to print it, and to improve it because I knew all I wanted to do was bring the idea.”
Currently, GliaX is looking for experienced medical professionals and hackers to help expand the GliaX collection. Find out more by heading over to the GliaX GitHub page.