The majority of house hold products and gadgets are bought from the store and made in a distant location, at least in the developed world. This is a great thing because it allows us to focus on specialization and others can do things for cheaper. The down side is that we lose the skills we may developed, by doing the plumbing ourselves, creating a heating system or fixing our own electronics.
Now many people have pushed back against this trend, and take pride in their Do-It-Yourself (DIY) projects. Capitilizing on their ability to share knowledge O’Reilly Media started Make Magazine in 2005, a magazine I both love and hate. It shares projects and how to guides, which I love. The only part I don’t like is seeing six year olds that can solder better than I can, but it does give me hope. Last year the Maker Fair, and annual even held since 2006 drew over 120,000 attendees.
This movement is inspiring because it not only teaches skills, but it allows individuals to translate those skills to other problems they encounter. Many of the projects you come across are handy, from remotes that shut-off those annoying televisions restaurants hang all over the place, to making a thermostat you can control over wi-fi. All very handy things. However, now they are being applied to more and more interesting projects.
Take Catherine Wong, a 17-year old, that decided for her highschool project she would make an ECG. Not only an ECG, but one that should use blue tooth to connect with a phone and send that to a physician. Why? Well, because she knew that 2 billion people without access to healthcare could benefit from this technology. Since their is an extremely high penetration rate of mobile devices, of which many have blue tooth. Check out this video.
Why is this important? Well I think providers, administrators and patients should know about this for two reasons. First, because increasing our understanding of how to make somethign changes what is possible and creates new opportunities to solve traditional challenges. Second, because there are massive amounts of potential to disrupt traditionally expensive devices and tackle long standing challenges.
These technologies will change healthcare. Whether they the idea is taken up by a larger company, or they allow access to others that follow the DIY guides that appear. This is a good thing, and healthcare providers need to take notice and get involved.