Jorge Odón watched a cork stuck in a wine bottle and envisioned a solution to difficult childbirth in developing countries. Without medical training, he's since secured patents for his Odón device, and his team oversaw 30 live trials, all successful.
"The health field needs more design thinkers," says Joel Dudley, whose research uses network modeling to predict the best cancer therapies based on a tumor's unique molecular pattern. "Creativity can help break down the artificial barriers that we have in medicine."
Linda Avey is curious. Her venture, Curious Inc., puts health care information in the hands of the people who need it by giving them a forum to ask personal questions about their health. "The traditional model of research was to cut off any conversation or engagement with the patients," she says. "But we need to get directly involved."
What's the most ubiquitous checker-upper around? It's your smartphone (sorry, Mom). It can be used to track so many things—so why not your health? That's the thinking behind the Ginger.io app. It collects your health data via sensors and periodic surveys. "Data for the sake of data is not great," says app founder Anmol Madan. "So how do you make it actionable by an MD or a nurse?"
With Watsi, Chase Adam has taken the power of Kickstarter and turned it toward a great cause: funding medical treatment for patients in the developing world. "With health care, creativity is a bit of a touchy subject," he says. "The biggest question is, where and how can we be creative?
In Mumbai, dental care was notorious for opaque pricing, long lines, and iffy equipment—that is, until Vikram Vora launched Mydentist in 2010. The strategy was direct: clear rates, fixed waiting times, quality equipment. Three years, 72 clinics, and more than 150,000 patients later, it has become a source of hope for the working class.
Seeing a lot of allusions to cancer in ancient texts, paleo-oncologist Kathryn Hunt wondered: Why aren't we seeing it in the bones? That question lit her up, and spurred the creation of the Paleo-oncology Research Organization, an open-source database of cases of cancer in ancient societies that can be studied for possible patterns that could unlock some of its mysteries.