Open Design in Healthcare

Matthew Dexter

Within the field of healthcare engaging people who ultimately have to use a product in that product’s design and development is an essential step in achieving a successful outcome. However certain chronic medical conditions exclude people from traditional participatory design. As a consequence, products are often made with minimal input from the people who will ultimately live with and use them.

This study sought to understand whether open-design could be used as a method and an approach in the development of products for people living with cystic fibrosis. Given that compromised immunity of participants meant that existing co-design methods and focus groups were not possible, the study utilised open design to facilitate collaboration.

The research recruited individuals living with cystic fibrosis in the UK and the USA to a bespoke online social network, where they designed products from their own lived experience. Through this collaborative open-design process the research demonstrated that the participants were able to conceive, design and develop complex devices that fitted their needs. Products included a medical treatment cabinet and a 3D printed pill dispenser.

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