As many of you know, I've taken on Health Design as a platform of advocacy. And it happened almost by accident, when I had the inspiration to pen that Open Letter to Steve Jobs back in April of '07. It was a tongue-in-cheek call-to-action for the gurus of consumer design to get together with the providers of medical devices and start making them smaller, slicker, more personalizable — in short, more like the iPod.
I'm happy to report that this kicked off an awful lot of buzz across the blogosphere, in mainstream media, and also across the diabetes-pharma industry, where our monitoring and pump devices are made. As I investigate and meet more and more folks in the industry, I'm continually amazed to hear about just how far this initiative has reached — into corporate board rooms and engineering labs, they tell me. Wow!
And the evidence is clear. We now have the UltraMini from LifeScan, which fits in the palm of your hand and comes in colors. I also just discovered an advertisement from Bayer, bragging that the Contour meter is "now personalized" with four colors to choose from — blue, green, purple, and weird gray (is that a color, or no color?) OK, the meter form factor still looks a little too '70s Star Trek, but choice of colors is a start, so it's all good.
Check out the above illustration from an article on the OmniPod that appeared in Southwest Airlines Magazine earlier this year (I couldn't find the link, but I was interviewed for the piece as well).
As many of you also know, last year, we turned the "iPump" concept into an official competition, the DiabetesMine Design Challenge, which garnered 21 innovative submissions (about half presented as YouTube videos and the others as documents uploaded to Scribd).
Here's some exciting news that I just couldn't hold in for another day:
This year's DiabetesMine Design Challenge will be supported and funded by the visionary folks at the California Healthcare Foundation (CHCF), an independent non-profit philanthropic organization. My project falls under its Better Chronic Disease Care program, whose mission is "to improve clinical outcomes and quality of life for Californians with chronic illness." Of course we'll be reaching far beyond California with this campaign; how ideal for the center of technology innovation (Silicon Valley) to act as host for a new revolution in medical design (high hopes!)
I'll be working closely with a fantastic woman at the CHCF named Veenu Aulakh, who formerly helped Kaiser Permanente's Care Management Institute develop diabetes management programs.
What this means is that this year's Design Challenge will have a professionally designed web home; a six-member judging panel, including VCs and entrepreneurs; a broad reach throughout the industry and university design programs; and some REAL PRIZE MONEY, to get some new products off the ground: $10,000 for first place, $5,000 for second place, and $2,000 for the under-18 category winner. This is just a little preview today, to get those design juices flowing. The contest will kick off in February 2009.
I'm just so excited because with the Foundation's backing, I'm thinking we can take the Design Challenge to the next level, and accelerate the process of bringing some more truly revolutionary devices to market — that is, if the FDA can get its ducks in a row for a reasonable approvals process. More on that issue here tomorrow.