Article originally written by Tom Fowler for Medgadget – November 20, 2015.
Anna Young, co-founder of MakerNurse, is bringing rapid prototyping tools into hospital units to enable nurses, other providers, and even patients to problem-solve with innovative do-it-yourself labs within hospitals, with the end goal of ultimately improving patient care. Anna and her team at MIT’s Little Devices Lab bring rapid prototyping tools into hospital units creating “Maker Health Spaces”. They recently spunoff Pop Up Labs, a privately held company to take these tools to scale across clinical environments. Supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, MakerNurse aims to empower nurses and bring nurse “making” to helm of changing the face of health care. I had the opportunity to meet with Anna at this year’s TEDMED conference in Palm Springs, CA, to talk about her work.
Tom Fowler, Medgadget: So Anna, have you always been a tinkerer?
Anna Young: I walked into MIT as a trained economist 6-years ago and it was there that I learned how to teardown medical devices, learn how they work and modify them through design and prototyping. If I could do it, I knew anybody could do it. That became my main interesting: how do you develop democratizing tools for medical device design and prototyping.
Medgadget: What type of traction do “Medical Maker Spaces” see in hospitals? What percentage of nurses will take the leap of faith into becoming device developers?
Anna Young: Across the board, 1 in 5 nurses is what Eric von Hippel will call, a “lead user”, they are faster than a device firm to identify a gap in a product and to spot an opportunity for problem solving. Hospitals are loving the notion that they get to transform themselves from problem spotters in need of design and engineering partnerships to developers of their own solutions. And it’s not just traditional research hospitals. Our biggest opportunities are in regional and community hospitals with large volumes of patients.
Medgadget: Provide an example of one awesome, and one terrible product that has come from a Maker Health Space.
Anna Young: Best example, wearable google to control hydration in eyes for burn patients. Worst example, an anatomical wound model that burned through 5lbs of 3D printer filament only to create a very awkward looking mold. To be fair, we love both of them. We think everyone deserves the chance to experiment and prototype. I’d rather see 20 failed prototypes than 1000 post-it notes of ideas for products that never get created.
Medgadget: Does this model have legal dilemmas running into the FDA?
Anna Young: We shepherd the prototyping process to make sure our medical makers meet every regulatory guideline at different levels. Whether it’s an internal IRB study or a 510k submission. Our Maker Health Spaces come wrapped with an ethical and legal advisory board that makes sure the prototypes meet regulatory guidelines. That means that you can prototype a device, take through an internal research study to learn how well it performs and be faster at designing its pathway into patient care. At the end of the day though, safety is always #1.
Medgadget: If I donated $1 billion to you for any project, what would you do?
Anna Young: Build a network of lending libraries of Maker Health prototyping kits around the country so that prototyping tools become more accessible and we remove the digital device in health technology.
Tom Fowler worked as a programmer in the healthcare IT industry before settling back in school to learn how to become a doctor. He likes to dabble with biotech startups, write postcards to his relatives, and play his ukulele. He was a TEDMED ’13 scholar, has published research in biomedical informatics, and continues to advocate for international maternal and child health. Currently in the SELECT MD leadership program at USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.
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