Future Of Health: Hacking Healthcare

Future Of Health: Hacking Healthcare

In an effort to develop viable, low-cost, widely-available solutions for a number of pressing healthcare concerns, a growing community of users is taking a DIY approach to bottom-up innovation.

Scott Mioduszewski
  • 2 august 2010

Hacking Healthcare

This post is part of a PSFK Consulting project aimed at providing insight into the Future of Health. Hacking Healthcare is one trend of fifteen that appears in our exploration of  how technology and access to information play a vital role in the ways that people will understand, manage and receive care whether that’s at home, in hospitals and clinics or in doctor’s offices.


In an effort to develop viable, low-cost, widely-available solutions for a number of pressing healthcare concerns, a growing community of users is taking a DIY approach to bottom-up innovation. These often collaborative efforts focus on creating open source designs and releasing them into the public sphere for further evolution and production from anywhere.


  • Distributed Knowledge – Immediate challenges can be shared within the community, allowing users to participate and volunteer solutions.
  • Creating Connections – Fostering the development of skills required to build custom healthcare tools yields long term benefits over monetary contributions.
  • Already-Available Parts – Users can create products based on equipment and parts they have in their possession, cutting costs and development time.
  • Good Enough Treatments – Developing low-cost solutions for augmenting lost body functions can provide good enough care to bring back a significant quality of life without high financial costs.

Supporting Examples for Hacking Healthcare


Empowering Paralysis Victims Through Creative Technology
The EyeWriter project is an ongoing research effort to empower people who are suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) with creative technologies. The result of the venture is the development of a low-cost ($200) eye-tracking apparatus and custom software that allows artists with paralysis resulting from the condition to draw on a screen using only their eyes. Comparable technologies come at a minimum cost of $20,000.


Collaborative Project Designs Low-Cost Prosthetics
The Open Prosthetics Project is an open source collaboration between users, designers and funders with the goal of producing useful innovations in the field of prosthetics. The project seeks to empower and freely share prosthetics designs in the public sphere for improvement and potential production. With wider access to 3D printing technology and a greater variety of materials available in the manufacturing process, there is the potential to fabricate functional, low-cost prosthetics and replacement parts from anywhere in the world.


DIY Community For Biological Engineers
DIYBio is an organization with the aim of making biology an accessible pursuit for citizen scientists, amateur biologists, and DIY biological engineers who value openness and safety. Their site provides amateurs with the tools to enhance their knowledge and skillset, as well as access to a community of experts. DIYBio also has set out to develop a code of ethics, responsible oversight and leadership on issues that are unique to doing performing biological experimentation outside of traditional professional settings.


Project Creates Modular Building System
The OpenStructures project is developing a modular construction model based off of a shared geometrical grid, creating a collaborative framework that encourages the community to contribute parts, components and structures. The goal is to initiate a universal standard that allows the widest range of people – from craftsmen to multinationals – to design, build and exchange the broadest range of modular components. the end result is a more flexible and scalable built environment, built on the proposition that an item created should be easily disassembled and reassembled.


Open Source Technology Community For Hobbyists
Humane Informatics of California has released both open source software and hardware designs that provide instructions on how to build an e-reader for $20. Users simply attach a PC keyboard and monitor to the device to create the e-reader. the Humane reader can provide users who have no other internet access with content from libraries or Wikipedia, and is available to NGOs, non-profits, educators and other aid agencies.


Web Community Provides Access To Creating Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
DIYDrones is a web resource that provides users with information on how to source and build sophisticated technology cheaply and easily. The site provides instructions on building autonomous aircraft, or “drones,” as well as a community to link members together to share knowledge and answer questions.

About PSFK’s Future Of Health Report


PSFK’s Future of Health Report details 15 trends that will impact health and wellness around the world. Simple advances such as off-the-grid energy and the introduction of gaming into healthcare service offerings sit alongside more future-forward developments such as bio-medical printing. The report includes concepts for UNICEF based on the trends provided by the world’s leading advertising and design agencies. It is our hope that this report will inspire your thinking and lead to services, applications and technologies which will allow for more available, quality healthcare.


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