Jose Gomez-Marquez says his geek cred is that he turns “helicopters into inhalers.” He is the head of the Innovations in International Health program at MIT, and a medical device designer at Little Devices where he uses toys to make affordable medical devices.
Although Jose’s work started in third world markets, he is now challenging all developers, makers and anyone with an idea to start hacking health and exploring DIY Medical Technology.
“If you look around you, you’ll notice there are a lot of solutions just waiting to be hacked and applied. So, whether it’s medical compliance for your grandmother or an infectious disease surveillance app that you can cook up in an android phone, it’s just as easy as you can make whack-a-mole on (MIT) App Inventor,” Jose told a group of creators at the World Maker Faire. (Watch Jose’s presentation here.)
Jose and his team have been attracting a lot of attention for their MEDIKits, likened to “medical Erector sets.” Designed to empower doctors and nurses in third world countries, MEDIKits contain dozens of parts that can be turned into hundreds of devices. The kits contain parts that are color-coded in a “Language of Design” so that people in any country can logically and easily identify the function of the components.
Pictured is the Medical MacGyver MEDIKit which sells for around $50.
According to Make magazine which recently featured MEDIKits in their Ultimate Kit Guide:
“Places like Nicaragua have some of the poorest areas on the continent. But what about Nebraska? What about healthcare at home? For years, health technology has been shielded from tinkering and DIY invention because of the perceived barriers to entry: you’re not a doctor, you’re not a biomedical engineer, you require professional supervision …
Medical invention kits have the potential to lower many of these barriers and put health hacking back into the hands of users and of patients — the people who have the most to gain from affordable and elegant innovations. As the developing world gets a head start on DIY medical technologies, we’ll see many of those user-generated inventions make their way back to richer countries.”
Jose’s experience in third world countries showed him just how creative people can be when necessity is the mother of invention. However, people were reluctant to tell him their hacks. “They are embarrassed by it,” he explains. But they are brimming with creativity.
“If they can do it, you can, too!” prods Jose, “Anyone can get involved.”
Jose says his teams in the field solicit non-medical members for the design team, “Becoming a little less arrogant about our own skills and professional status allows us to reach out to the user and create a co-development environment.” He explains that these members will frequently interrupt the design process and that can be a bit frustrating, “You are dealing with a nonprofessional, but that’s the beauty of it. They don’t know which questions are stupid, so they may suggest something that’s completely brilliant. And you want to take credit for it, but you can’t, because it’s really their idea.”
There are MEDIKit medical education design and innovation kits for:
- drug delivery
- mobile health
- prosthetic design