Post #8: IP vs. OSD – Health

The topic of health is one that is very complex. The health industry encompasses a lot of different fields ranging from diet/food to exercise, to pharmaceuticals, to medical treatment. Thus, it is hard to analyze OSD’s impact on the industry as a whole, however when broken down into smaller parts, it may be easier to analyze.

The benefits of OSD in the food industry were touched in a previous blog post that you can find here: Post 5. However, regarding diet – this is an area in the health industry that has already adopted an open source methodology. Most diets available today found on the internet are free to find and free to use. While some are designed and created by professionals, many are published by people who have simply invented diets that worked for them. In this way, OSD is beneficial in that everyone can reap of the benefits and knowledge of a few passionate individuals.

In terms of the knowledge part of exercise, OSD functions similarly to diets. Workout plans and regimens are available on the internet and people can find an exercise program that works for them. The harder part for OSD in this sub-field of health is the equipment to perform exercise. This is not a problem for outdoor running, but when it comes to gyms, often times the equipment needed for exercise can only be found at local businesses. The only foreseeable way I can envision OSD helping here would be a machine with a lot of modular parts that could be rearranged to be a “10 in 1” type machine for the average household. This “base” structure machine could be manipulated simply by ordering parts online to fit the specific exercises that the user wants to do.

This could be the best area for OSD to help in the health industry. Right now, there is a lot of corruption in the pharmaceutical industry directly causes by IP. For example, Martin Shkreli, the 32-year-old founder and CEO of Turing Pharmaceutical made headlines in September for raising the price of Daraprim, often used to treat HIV and AIDS patients, from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill after buying the rights to the drug.

Because Martin was able to obtain intellectual property, he was able to manipulate the price of a drug that literally affected people’s lives. This is the interesting dilemma that we live in today. Morally, we as a society should be somewhat altruistic when it comes to medicine. We need to be able to help those who are sick and make it affordable. But on the other hand, we are also bound by the need for profit. How can researchers be encouraged to find new solutions and drugs if they do not have the security of adequate funding?

I believe the solution here is clearly OSD. In open source, there are no intellectual property rights that cause corruption, yet financial income and revenue are still abundant. In this way, OSD helps maintain altruistic societal benefit while also being profitable.

Medical Treatment
My experience with this last category comes from one of my classes here at UVA. In one of my entrepreneurship classes, I learned about a student who came up with a product that changed the way doctors were trained.

It all started when he noticed that doctors didn’t have a good way to practice moving body parts back into place after they had been dislocated. To solve this, the student created a model arm that feels and behaves like a real arm. The purpose of this fake arm is to help doctors practice their job before having to perform it on a live person.

I believe this is a great example of what OSD can do. OSD allows the public, who know what the problems are in the medical field, to collectively identify the problem and the solution to it. This doesn’t require 12 years of schooling and a M.D. But rather, all that is needed is a problem and a desire to solve that problem. Who knows what other small gadgets and treatments can come from OSD?

All this to say, OSD can be applied to the health industry. In fact, OSD should be applied because in all the sub-fields of health that I could think of: food/diet, exercise, pharmaceuticals, and treatment, OSD is useful. Perhaps the focus of our politicians moving forward should not be on the allocation of finances in the health industry, but rather the methodology through which we advance our health knowledge. Perhaps increased investment in the latter can actually decrease the cost of the former.

Enterprise Open Source Strategy
Open Source as an Element of Corporate Strategy


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