When Patients Become Innovators

Article When Patients Become Innovators

Health care consumers are contributing their skills, money, and time to develop effective solutions that aren’t available on the commercial market.




User-friendly technology and the internet have given rise to “free innovation movements” in various industries, including the medical field. In an article published in MIT Sloan Management Review, a team of scholars discusses the benefits of patient innovation, calling upon both governments and the private sector to support it. The article is a fascinating read for patients, medical providers, commercial product designers and regulators alike.


Patients who require solutions that don’t easily lend themselves to commercialization are increasingly looking for do-it-yourself (DIY) approaches to meet their needs. Type 1 diabetes patient Dana Lewis, for example, has worked with a software engineer to develop an artificial pancreas that can keep blood sugar levels within a healthy range during sleep. By making the device’s blueprint and software tools freely available online, Lewis has since helped thousands of patients prevent potentially fatal drops in overnight blood sugar levels. Similarly, Sean Ahrens, who suffers from Crohn...

About the Authors

Harold DeMonacoPedro OliveiraAndrew TorranceChristiana von Hippel and Eric von Hippel are scholars in the fields of technological innovation, law and health care at research institutions in the United States and Europe. 

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