How Technology Has Empowered A New Wave Of Health Industry EntrepreneursShubham Banerjee
(Forbes) – We spend nearly twice as much per capita on healthcare as our peer nations. Shouldn’t that mean we are twice as healthy? Not exactly. The United States’s healthcare system ranks last among 11 developed countries. The urgency to build lower-cost but effective prevention, care and treatment is clear.
While there are many experts tackling various healthcare issues, the democratization of technology is giving rise to a new movement of makers who are identifying innovation gaps, tinkering and hacking today’s solutions to make healthcare services more affordable, practical and useful in everyday settings.
Makers are independent inventors. They don’t necessarily always develop new inventions, but rather address shortcomings in existing products or processes using basic and often cheap tools, many of which are based on technology. The maker movement merges the DIY and hacker cultures, encouraging everyday people – not necessarily specialists – to unlock their imaginations, tinker and toy to create new, handcrafted solutions.
PricewaterhouseCoopers predicted DIY healthcare to be one of the top trends of 2015 and beyond, and the new army of makers are certainly delivering on this promise. Meet the following makers who identified real-world problems – from costly braille products to outdated casts – and innovated quickly, using tools and supplies that dramatically reduced costs, to create immediate and impactful solutions at scale. What’s their catalyst? Personal struggles, medical conditions or simply empathy for those who need help.
Meet The Makers
Inspired by his own frustration with the limited and restrictive cast options available to support his broken leg, North dreamed up an alternate option. With the help of FATHOM, he created BoomCast, a 3D-printed cast powered by an Intel INTC +0.00% Edison chip that helps doctors better track the healing process and provide improved mobility, within just a few days.
Entrepreneurs are often thought of as experienced industry experts. Shubham Banerjee, a 13-year-old, defied these stereotypes, when, at age 12, he developed an open-source, economical braille printer. Built using an Intel development board and Lego Mindstorms EV3, “Braigo” slashes the price of a braille printer from more than $2,000 to around $350, bringing affordable solutions to those in need. Using the toys he grew up with, and technologies he learned on the fly, Shubham proved that, with a touch of inspiration and a lot of heart, anyone can “make” an impact.
Individual dreamers, tinkerers and inventors are often found inside of large organizations, and often invent on the fly, creating products that make a huge impact. After hearing from doctors working on the front lines of the Ebola crisis in West Africa, a Google GOOGL +0.66% employee worked with Intel to develop an “Ebola-proof” tablet for medical workers. Built to withstand the region’s trying circumstances, including rough environment, intensive cleaning regimes and heat, the tablets demonstrated that makers have truly seized the moment, innovating quick-turn solutions that can make an impact immediately. While the Ebola epidemic has lessened, the tablet provides a framework for technology that can be used in future crisis situations.
Making It Personal
The maker movement, and increased accessibility to simple and affordable yet powerful technology tools, has enabled everyday people to test and develop solutions in areas hitherto reserved for specialists. Thanks to “making,” everyday people have the opportunities and resources to hack real world problems. In doing so, they are developing breakthroughs in medicine and wellness.
The opportunity and challenge is everyone’s to seize. What will you make?