A timely post. I went to the store today and saw the panic. I thought, could a Raspberry Pi save the day? I think so, to some extent. Small and inexpensive, Raspberry Pi models are single-board computers (SBCs), which cost as little as $35 for the most recent model is being used in a lot of medical equipment!
They were initially developed as educational devices for teaching the basics of computer science. Still, the small multi-purpose computer has been popular outside its target use case since its inception. Even within the stringent medical device regulatory environment, which heavily values longevity and consistency of products, Raspberry Pi is powering innovation. In fact, the platform’s consistency and flexibility are opening the door to more affordable healthcare solutions. Here is a roundup of some current products utilizing the popular SBC.
Emblation Microwave Makes Microwave Ablation Procedures Low Cost and Light Weight
Medical use of microwaves as a surgical implement to alter or remove tissues is a growing medical field that has been stymied by a need for low cost and microwave devices. Emblation Microwave saw the chance to utilize Raspberry Pi as the compact computing power for its portable surgical microwave generator. The flexibility using these SBCs as controllers provides in programming options is a boon to many applications, and the low cost, uniformity, and longevity of the computers make them an excellent fit for the application. As a platform that is both robust and does not require upgrading as time passes, it is a perfect fit for medical devices that need to be up-to-date and available for use at all times.
Heartfelt Technologies Helps Patients with At-Home Heart Monitor
A startup company founded to reduce medical costs associated with heart failure patients, Heartfelt Technologies has developed a low-cost monitor powered by seven Raspberry Pis. The device is a wall-mounted camera system that collects data from patients’ ankles and feet as they get out of bed, recording any swelling or abnormal cardiovascular activity. Based on this data, the sensor is able to predict a potential cardiac event. As heart failure is the most common cause for hospitalization in people over 65, a low-cost at-home measure for early detection that is both nonintrusive and reliable could save both lives and emergency room costs.
NuGenious Utilizes Raspberry Pi in DNA imaging
The wide range of medical devices implementing Raspberry Pi shows the flexibility of the platform—next up is the Syngene NuGenius, a DNA image analyzer that could be used to detect genes that cause certain diseases. This development promises a low-cost option for the detection of genetic defects and cancer-causing genes and an interface usable by both students and experienced analysts. Their gel documentation systems rapidly image DNA/RNA samples dyed with fluorescently labeled gels for easy analysis and detection.
GNU Health Develops Free Open Source Hospital Information Management Systems
GNU Health, free software that functions as a Hospital Information System (HIS) and Electronic Medical Record (EMR) has developed a way to use Raspberry Pi-powered medical sensors as nodes in their information system. Using the sensors, they can work in real-time to record and utilize information and provide quality and timely demographic and epidemiological information. According to GNU Health, “Raspberry Pis are full-blown computers with a huge potential for the Public Health System.” The low cost and small size of the sensors allows them to be used both by care providers and in homes to report relevant demographic information or issues to public services.
MySignals Creates a New Generation of Medical Sensors
MySignals is a company providing not a line of products, but an eHealth development platform powered by Raspberry Pi. The flexibility of the SBC as a base allows for the measurement of more than 15 different biometric parameters, and the ability to add additional sensors to build new medical devices. While this is not currently intended for field use for healthcare service, it is a valuable product for developers and researchers to explore possibilities in medical sensor devices.
Projects such as HealthyPi Open the Door for Further Medical Applications
HealthyPi was first developed as a HAT (Hardware Attached on Top) for Raspberry Pi. This device was an entrant to the Hackaday Prize and is now available as HealthyPi v4. While not a medical-grade device, the HAT, developed by ProtoCentral, is an experiment in open-source medical technologies. It provides flexibility often not found in medical practice, offering mobility with wireless and wearable capabilities. With real-time results and high accuracy, the device can measure ECG, respiration, pulse oximetry, and body temperature. The open-source nature of this device allows for increased consumer development of personal preventative health measures.