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Driving Innovation Through Makerspaces

  • June 20, 2016|
  • 2 years ago

by Tom Foley

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Director, Global Health Solution Strategy

In 2006, the San Francisco Bay Area hosted the first Maker Faire, an event for technology enthusiasts to come together and simply create or concept new ideas. By 2014, the Maker Faire held flagship events in the Bay Area and New York, attracting 215,000 attendees, along with 14 concurrent international Maker Faires and 119 independently-produced mini events. Resulting in technology advancements such as the first 3-D printers (at the NYC Resistor makerspace) and community labs (at Genspace in New York), this initiative has truly illustrated the benefits of diverse collaboration.

The Maker Faire gave way to makerspaces, a term for labs or other places where groups meet up to work together on new projects. This style of collaboration is becoming increasingly popular, attracting the attention of leaders and innovators from a number of industries, including education and health.

Why Are Health Leaders Paying Attention?

The Social Science Research Network reviewed several of these programs for practical application in the health industry. The findings suggested that “almost all innovations developed in the makerspaces are user innovations, the potential returns from the first 56 innovations developed in the makerspaces are 30-80 times the required investment, and most of the innovations would not have been developed without access to makerspaces.” Makerspaces mean opportunity for faster future growth, and several health leaders are taking advantage of what they can offer.

First Makerspace for Health

The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and the MakerNurse program recently launched the MakerHealth™ Space. Located within John Sealy Hospital, this is the nation’s first makerspace for health providers. Supported in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, this initiative will “empower nurses and other medical staff to bring their ideas for improving health care to life and spread their innovations throughout the health care system.”

MakerNurse, also supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in collaboration with MIT, is driving awareness about the program within the health industry. “We’re working with hospitals across the country to build a network of MakerHealth spaces. Recognizing that nurses work as part of a team, we’re working to engage the whole health care community by inviting doctors, nurses, therapists, technologists, caregivers, and patients to work together to devise solutions for making health care better,” says co-founder Anna Young. “We’re getting ready to launch a new website where medical makers can share ‘How-To’s’ so others can recreate their health solutions and spread them throughout the health care system.”

Valuable Opportunities

These gatherings draw together diverse groups of staff, and sometimes patients, to share varying perspectives and brainstorm new ideas or solutions to existing problems. Consider how these types of events might be used in your organization to address such complex issues as consumerization of care, improving patient outcomes and community health, or compliance and security.

Stephen Treglia, HIPAA Compliance Officer for Absolute, notes the importance of collaboration provided by makerspaces as a good way to maintain compliance and strengthen security. “With health care’s ever-changing compliance landscape, it’s critical to keep everyone up to date on the latest changes. Knowing who is responsible for what and how your organization can best delegate these tasks could save you costly fines and reduce the risk of a security breach,” Treglia said.

Communication is always vital to success. I strongly encourage you to apply the concept to some of your annual company meetings or create a makerspace within your facility. It would be ideal to schedule quarterly follow-ups to foster greater progress and transparency.


1. Maker Faire: A Bit of History. Maker Media, Inc. 2016.
2. Makerspaces + Hospitals. BIT Magazine. April 13, 2016.
3. Policies to Promote User Innovation: Evidence from Swedish Hospitals on the Effects of Access to Makerspaces on Innovation by Clinicians. Social Science Research Network. March 18, 2016.
4. Nation’s First Medical Makerspace Opens in Texas. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. September 25, 2015.
5. Nurses Create in a Medical Makerspace. Hackaday. October 21, 2015.