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The Patient Innovation platform

Patient Innovation is a digital platform that connects patients, carers and other agents involved in the care environment and enables them to share innovative solutions that they have created themselves to improve the health and quality of life of users, alleviate their symptoms, or facilitate their everyday life.

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Geographical scope: global

Source: Patient Innovation

1. Context

In recent years, there has been a growing tendency towards promoting open innovation in the health sector through collaborative projects. These have been conceived to facilitate the exchange of ideas and experiences, among the different actors, also including users themselves. These new focuses seek to resolve some of the problems traditionally associated with innovation models in the healthcare sector, which often fail in response to user needs, whether due to a lack of adaptability or problems related to approach. Given that a substantial part of innovation is born at centres or units far removed from the reality of healthcare, on occasions their goals do not coincide with the immediate needs of health professionals and patients. Innovation projects are usually directed by researchers at research centres, which frequently makes it difficult for the ideas and proposals of patients, carers and professionals from other sectors to be taken into account. The global changes of recent years and new models such as open innovation are breaking with this tendency and enabling new strategies that also incorporate other voices.

2. Debate

Patient Innovation is a digital, multilingual, and open not-for-profit platform, which facilitates users sharing what they have learned, and innovative solutions that they have reached, in their everyday lives. The project is the result of research studies by a multidisciplinary team led by Pedro Oliveira. 

The aforementioned research, begun in 2011, aimed to compile evidence on the innovation activity of patients and carers. The results showed that patients and carers alike were contributing significant innovative capacities and an entire series of solutions to different questions that faced them on a daily basis. Some of these solutions enabled improvement of patients’ health or alleviation of their symptoms, while others made their everyday lives easier. Hundreds of millions of patients the world over are suffering from similar illnesses, therefore patients and their carers can be a major source of innovation for many people experiencing similar situations. The findings reached suggested that better dissemination of the solutions found by patients and their carers could be of great help for many others. It was clear that the need existed to create an online platform that would enable dissemination of these solutions. Thus, the Patient Innovation idea was born.

The platform was created in the year 2014 and initially it was conceived as a repository for medical innovations developed by the patients, their caregivers, and other agents who intervened in their care. Since then, it has become a global network of patients, family members, carers, medical personnel and collaborators from all over the world. To date, over 4,500 innovative solutions (strategies, treatments, devices, mobile apps, etc.) have been submitted. A medical team studies all of these initiatives and, to date, approximately half have been approved and are listed on the website. The platform’s user community has already exceeded 250,000 people. As a complement to it, recently a mentorship and training programme aimed at patients and family members has been developed, through which they are offered help and advice on how to take their products or services to the market.

3. Conclusions

Successful experiences such as the Patient Innovation platform confirm that the future of health innovation involves giving users and patients a more prominent role and empowering them in the search for solutions. 

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