This Diabetic Patient hacked a medical device to make an Artificial Pancreas



Blood Test  1
Image by Alan Chadwick   

Digital Health Technologies are becoming more and more popular every day. The IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics reports that there are now over 165,000 mobile health apps on the market. Most, over two thirds, are focused on general wellness, lifestyle, stress and diet.  Perhaps even more surprisingly though, is the fact that while the number of health apps is rapidly growing, the percentage of apps that allow users to access and securely share their information has remained flat.

For years when patients, caregivers or consumers wanted, or worse needed, health information about themselves or their loved ones, the only choice was to make an appointment, see a medical professional and wait, sometimes weeks to get information that was often cryptic and difficult to understand. Today health consumers are demanding more access, information, convenience and lower costs. The healthcare system is struggling to respond effectively.

However, unlike patients and caregivers of yesterday who had no choice, today’s consumers, innovators and entrepreneurs are increasingly taking matters into their own hands when an opportunity arises. In many ways, this spirit of refusing to accept an unacceptable status quo is what threatens the traditional paradigm in healthcare more than anything else.  It is the main reason “Dr. Google” is so popular! Studies suggest that people value what their doctors say, but for a variety of reasons, they are often not able to get the information or support they need, when they need it, from the current healthcare system. With advances in health technologies and digital health like 3D printing, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Google, people can now find much of the information they need, at any time day or night. Increasingly, they can also act on that information.  That is exactly what Dana Lewis did by hacking into her medical device to create the The Open Artificial Pancreas System. As she puts it, the Open Artificial Pancreas System project (#OpenAPS) is an open and transparent effort to make safe and effective basic Artificial Pancreas System (APS) technology widely available to more quickly improve and save as many lives as possible and reduce the burden of Type 1 diabetes. Risky? Perhaps, but certainly inspiring. Safe? Time will tell. One thing is clear however, traditional methods of science, manufacturing, medicine and healthcare are rapidly changing.  Those who embrace the times and lead the change with effective solutions could help enhance the health of people across the globe.  Those who work to protect, their market dominance and the status quo, will eventually become irrelevant. Remember Woolworth and Woolco? A once dominant department store chain, is now defunct. Many other examples exist in almost every sector except healthcare.  Given current and emerging trends, the question is not if it will happen in healthcare but rather when and to whom? Which of the current leaders in healthcare and medicine will become essentially irrelevant in the next decade, because they failed to respond effectively and rapidly to changing societal realities. Just like Dana Lewis’s Artificial Pancreas System, the answer to this question will become clear and may even be surprising. Stay tuned, the answer may come sooner than you think!

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