When patients become innovators

  • Harold DemonacoEmail author
  • Pedro Oliveira
  • Andrew Torrance
  • Christiana von Hippel
  • Eric von Hippel


Patients are increasingly able to conceive and develop sophisticated medical devices and services to meet their own needs - often without any help from companies that produce or sell medical products. This “free” patient-driven innovation process enables them to benefit from important advances that are not commercially available. Patient innovation also can provide benefits to companies that produce and sell medical devices and services. In this article, we look at two examples of free innovation in the medical field - one for managing type 1 diabetes and the other for managing Crohn’s disease. We will set these cases within the context of the broader free innovation movement that has been gaining momentum in an array of industries and apply the general lessons of free innovation to the specific circumstances of medical innovation by patients.


Free innovation Medical innovation Medical devices User Innovation Patient Innovation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, part of Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harold Demonaco
    • 1
    Email author
  • Pedro Oliveira
    • 2
  • Andrew Torrance
    • 3
  • Christiana von Hippel
    • 4
  • Eric von Hippel
    • 1
  1. 1.Sloan School of ManagementMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Strategy and InnovationCopenhagen Business SchoolFrederiksbergDenmark
  3. 3.School of LawUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA
  4. 4.Berkeley School of Public HealthUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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