Patient-innovators fill gaps that industry hasn’t addressed – or can’t – Harold DeMonaco and Eric von Hippel

Eric von Hippel, T. Wilson (1953) Professor in Management, MIT Sloan School of Management

From Stat News

Here’s a long-held assumption that’s ripe for a challenge: Valuable improvements in health and patient care should come from experts in the pharmaceutical, medical device, and related industries.

There’s no question that such professionals are essential for innovation. But our research shows that patient-innovators also have important roles to play and will fill significant gaps that industry hasn’t addressed — or can’t.

Take Lisa Crite as an example. Like all women who have a mastectomy for breast cancer, she was advised not to shower for seven to ten days after the operation to avoid contaminating the wound and surgical drains. Since that’s a long time to go without showering, many women resort to wrapping their upper bodies with plastic wrap or trash bags to cover the healing surgical wound during a shower. Not satisfied with that approach and unable to find a suitable commercial product, Crite developed the Shower Shirt. Not only does it keep the area dry, it also has internal pockets for the the wound’s drains.

Dana Lewis, a health communications professional in her 20s with type 1 diabetes, is another example. She teamed up with a software engineer and others with diabetes to develop what the medical device industry had been promising to deliver for decades: a do-it-yourself artificial pancreas. Sean Ahrens is another. Living with Crohn’s disease, this computer science and business graduate from the University of California, Berkeley was frustrated with the lack of information about what he could do to prevent flare-ups of the disease. So he created Crohnology, which now has more than 10,000 registered users.

To understand what drives patient-innovators like these and the challenges they face, we worked with colleagues around the world to conduct nationally representative surveys in six countries. We also had face-to-face discussions with groups of collaborating patient-innovators.

Read the full post at Stat News.

Eric von Hippel is the T. Wilson (1953) Professor in Management and a Professor of Management of Innovation and Engineering Systems at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Harold DeMonaco is a visiting scientist of Behavioral and Policy Sciences at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. 

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