Visualizing User Innovation in Health Care (2011)

Dr. Denita Cepiku / Univ.-Prof. Dr. Katja Hutter / Dr. Sara Poggesi / Prof. Ph. Dr. Pedro Oliveira

The literature on user innovation in health-care services has identified examples of service development (including medical treatments) by users. For example, in October 1969, Richard Bernstein, a type 1 diabetes patient, came across an advertisement of the first blood glucose meter that would give a reading in 1 minute, using a single drop of blood. The device was intended for emergency staff at hospitals to distinguish unconscious diabetics from unconscious drunks. The instrument weighed three pounds, cost $650, and was only available to certified physicians, and hospitals. Determined to take control of his situation, Bernstein asked his wife, a doctor, to order the instrument for him. Bernstein began to measure his blood sugar about 5 times each day, and soon realized that the levels fluctuated wildly throughout the day. To even out his blood sugars, he adjusted his insulin regimen from one injection per day to two, and experimented with his diet, notably by reducing his consumption of carbohydrates. Three years after Bernstein began monitoring his own blood sugar levels, his complications were still progressing, and he began researching scientific articles about the disease. Bernstein, a “user”, is believed to be the first individual to self-monitor his blood sugar, and was an early advocate for such monitoring by diabetics (Bernstein 2007). Bernstein is just one of many users who developed important solutions for their own disease (Oliveira, von Hippel, and DeMonaco 2011).


This is just one of the many examples in which a treatment or medical device was developed by patients. We call these examples the “celebrity user innovators”. We aim at identifying actual user innovators, and plan to share those innovations with patients that can benefit from them.


Therefore the following questions should be answered:

–        How can we identify the user innovators in health care, and the innovations they developed?

–        How can we make them “visible” to society?

–        How does society benefit from users innovations in Healthcare services?

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Find more information about the project: Visualizing User Innovation in Health Care on the projects' website.