We investigate the motives and activities of individual user innovators in healthcare, focusing on patients of various diseases. More specifically we investigate the role of patients in the development of new treatments, therapies or medical devices (TT&MD).

We draw on path creation theory (Garud and Karnøe 2001) for analyzing a number of new therapies and medical devices developed by patients (i.e. user innovators), including the case of electronic trousers that help paraplegics to stand and walk; the injection port, a medical device for diabetes patients who need daily injections, and the shower shirt, to protect mastectomy patients from post-surgical infection, among other. We identify three particular mechanisms (i.e., rare conditions, strong constraints on daily life, and dead end situations) that systematically produce inappropriateness in health care provision as perceived by the patient. Furthermore, we identify four individual innovation strategies that patients used to transform their needs into innovations. Last, we show that by changing their role once – from patient to patient-innovator – individuals were able to help themselves, and by changing it again – from patient-innovators to producers of medical devices – they succeeded in helping many others and in finding a way to add their valuable contribution to the existing health care system.

Link to the paper:


The picture depicts the use of ReWalk which helps paraplegics to stand and walk and is one of the practical examples in our paper.

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