by Damon Mitchell
As a kid, I spent three and a half hours a week mowing my parents’ lawn. Usually, it was right about the time my friends were loading into my neighbor’s car to enjoy a summer Saturday. Spend the better part of a Saturday in arduous labor and you turn into a theoretical engineer. Although I never possessed the technical skill or courage to modify my parents’ mower, I had perfect designs in my head. I would cut mowing time by 66% with folding blades on each side, connected to the central axle via belts. It was beautiful, but the idea never left my head until just now.
In 2013, a man from Massachusetts, Paul McCarthy, decided he wasn’t going to allow his son, Leon, to go through life without use of his hand. The boy was born without fingers on his left hand. Unlike me, with my ambitions of modding the family mower, McCarthy didn’t take the situation sitting down. He turned to the internet for plans, and found a video made by Ivan Owen, an American puppeteer and special effects artist who had sort of fallen into creating 3D printed prosthetics. McCarthy was inspired by Owen’s video, where his simple invention allowed a five-year-old boy use of a prosthetic hand. In 2013 McCarthy set out to create a similar prosthetic for his son, Leon. Within months they had a working prosthetic. McCarthy gets “Dad of the Year” for sure.
With enough frustration and enough time online, we can all probably find uncommon solutions for life’s little challenges. But who has the time? Especially for medical patients, who may not have the resources or energy to spend time searching. What are they to do? What if there was a centralized place for innovative ideas that could revolutionize patient’s lives? That would be invaluable.
Good news. Someone has already created this site. It’s aimed at patients, but medical professionals may also find it valuable. It offers patients alternative resources for improving their quality of life.
Patient Innovation (PI) helps professionals to further empower their patients with a network full of growing solutions that are simple, organized, and genius.
Patient Innovation facilitates cross-patient communication on simple solutions
Although the site management team is a collection of decorated professionals, the actual content of the site is patient and caregiver driven. The goal, as PI puts it, “is a platform and social network that allows patients and caregivers to share their health solutions with other people.”
Often times, solutions that work for one set of patients, can apply to other patients suffering through similar challenges, even though they may not have been through the same exact treatment. The site encourages users to share the simplest solutions, as it’s often the little things that make life more comfortable. We’ll come back to some actual examples in a bit, but I’m thinking my modified lawnmower could have helped groundskeepers everywhere, if there had been something like PI for lawn care back then.
Their platform challenge is the real meat and potatoes of their unique vision, and worth reading in its entirety:
“We are driven by a fundamental challenge: to create a wide social network to connect patients and enable sharing of solutions, treatments, devices, and other relevant knowledge. The result is Patient Innovation, a place where patients and those who care about them can share and access useful and otherwise unknown solutions to cope with their diseases. But we wish to go even further. We want the medical and research communities on board, giving feedback and contributing towards what we expect will become a virtual incubator for solutions that can be developed to answer patients’ needs.”
The solutions are genius
Earl Dickson is probably the most famous case of patient innovation. He was a caregiver for his wife, Josephine, who frequently cut herself in the kitchen. Dickson’s prototype, a piece of gauze placed in the middle of a strip of adhesive tape, became the template for an industry which still lives: Band Aids. You may have heard of them!
One very interesting innovation on the site is the Shower Shirt. It is a post surgical water-resistant garment, which was dreamt up by a patient who had undergone a bilateral mastectomy. With a standard recovery time of 7-10 days, not showering wasn’t an option, and the plastic bags she was using weren’t working very well. So, the Shower Shirt was born. True to the site’s mission, the Shower Shirt works for more than just post-mastectomy patients. There are at least eleven other candidates who benefit from this medical equipment. It is simple, inexpensive, and it matters to patients.
The Library of Information is Organized
To get started is very simple: users register, find their patient group, and start to share their solutions. I signed up by simply connecting to my Facebook account, clicking on one button, and viola! I was in. The first option is a large search bar, and then just below it are the categories of conditions, symptoms, locations, activities, devices and therapy.
Searching for solutions is as simple as either navigating to your patient group or using the search feature, standard on most pages. For my test run, I clicked on “location,” navigated to leg (since I have knee pain from all that lawn mowing), and found five solutions. While nothing specifically matched my current situation, which really isn’t that bad, I bookmarked the site for Mobilegs in case things worsen. Mobilegs is a genius improvement on crutches.
The Library of Information is Growing Every Day
Once you register, you can also set up your notifications to receive updates. Because PI is an evolving database you’ll want to stay connected. Although there is already a ton of valuable information on there, you can imagine that over time the library could grow immensely. That’s just what PI is hoping for.
You can also connect with Patient Innovation on Facebook, Twitter (@PatientInnov), and YouTube (various languages represented) if you prefer not to receive emails. In the long run, the more connected you are, the better. PI is well connected themselves, with organizations like Carnegie Mellon. MIT, and the Australian Patients Association. Not bad, if you are motivated by name-dropping.
Me? I’m motivated by smart and simple solutions, like super-mowers, and shower shirts. I’m not a medical professional, nor am I currently a patient. I’m just the guy they asked to write this article. You, however, have come this far so I assume you are someone who’s interested. What are you waiting for?
One more thing… if you manufacture my lawnmower idea, I want a 10% cut of the profits. Called it. Just there. 🙂
A lifetime veteran of the fitness industry, and writer, Damon Mitchell is the health and wellness content curator for Medshop Australia Medical Supplies. Most days, you can find him in the gym lifting really heavy weights, jogging on the beach, or hitting deadlines on his Mac. Originally from the United States, but now an international traveler, he lives with his wife and their dog in Tamarindo, Costa Rica.