Creative technology for the healthcare sector

Sabine Wildevuur, director of Creative Care Lab of Waag, tells the story behind this ecosystem responsible for bringing together users, designers, developers and health professionals in the creation of innovative solutions for their application in the healthcare sector.

Sabine, tell us how was Creative Care Lab born, and what is the philosophy behind.

The Care lab of Waag was initiated around ten years ago in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. The Care lab states that technology has become ubiquitous in today’s society, which greatly affects modern healthcare. The Care lab uses co-creation to work with users, designers, artists and developers on researching and developing applications and innovative concepts for the healthcare sector.

The Care lab connects actors and methods from the creative sector with those working in the field of healthcare. Design thinking and design research are an essential part of this process. Care’s guiding ethos is that the users should always remain central.

Innovation in healthcare requires using new perspectives. ¿Can ICT change the approach?

ICT should not be the starting point of the discussion. We first need to ask ourselves why we need innovation in healthcare? What are the real issues at stake? If we have researched what is the issue we want to solve, only then, we are looking into if ICT is the solution, and what type of ICT?

In this process we always need to start from the users. Find out what is the question behind the question. And in iterative steps, design and develop applications, together with the users. Otherwise we will end up in a technology push of products and services that do not really fit the need of the users or are too expensive.

Can creative technology reduce pressure on care, reduce costs and increase accessibility and quality?

In the ideal world, ICT supports users to live longer independently with a high quality of life. The Made4You-project is looking into open healthcare solutions, which also opens up questions around legal, ethical and financial matters. This is still a grey area, in which more research needs to be conducted.

What are the projects you are currently working on at the Creative Care Lab, in order to meet and offer specific solutions to patients’ needs?

Our main focus are projects under the heading of MakeHealth. In the MakeHealth Lab, we investigate how you can make your own health care applications that support the self-reliance of patients or support healthcare professionals. In healthcare, there is not always an appropriate answer to a practical question. MakeHealth Lab supports patients, health care professionals, hospitals, designers, artists and entrepreneurs in making (technical) applications themselves.

A problem or need is central to a patient or healthcare professional. The goal of MakeHealth is to come up with innovative designs and ‘open’ (source) applications, which enable citizens to participate in society – despite a limitation. Fab Labs and maker spaces are used as means to promote collaboration; the creative process connects people within and between disciplines. The working method, drawings and insights to arrive at a working application are documented and shared online. This allows other users to create and adapt these solutions in their own environment. In addition, public debate is held within meet-ups about the (im) possibilities of and limits to feasible care using new digital technology.

Health and well-being are very strong focuses of the Sustainable Development Goals. In your opinion, what are the major challenges to their achievement?

To be able to empower citizens to take control in guiding them towards better health and well-being. eHealth could be one of the ways to support citizens worldwide in achieving those goals.

Do you directly work with fab labs and maker communities?

Waag has been one of the forerunners of the fab community, and one the first fablabs in the Benelux was established in Amsterdam at Waag. The Fabacademy is also taught at Waag. We work directly with 378 several fablabs worldwide. In the project Made4You, we are collaborating with Opendot, Fablab Berlin, GIG and others.

How do you see the eHealth ecosystem in five years?

It is always difficult to predict the future. Hopefully we will have more eHealth applications that are aimed to meet the needs of its users, what I frame in my research as ICT-enabled, person-centered care.

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