User innovation of medical technologies in a developing country setting – the case of lower limb prostheses in Malawi

Blessing, Victoria Myriam Patricia (2014) User innovation of medical technologies in a developing country setting – the case of lower limb prostheses in Malawi. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

As is well known, users can make significant contributions to innovations, including innovating themselves. However, much work on user innovation has focussed on developed countries. The question remains whether and how users innovate in a developing country setting. Bodies of literature that explicitly consider innovations in such settings emphasise the influence of limitations. This thesis therefore investigates how limitations shape the creation and sharing of innovations by users. This issue is analysed for medical technologies, because these can have different user groups, including patients, who have been little focussed on, even in developed countries.

In this setting, a focus on innovation as defined relatively inclusively is most suitable, and therefore the term 'changes' is often used rather than 'innovations' to express this inclusiveness. By comparing the changes made to the same kind of technology by different groups of users in different settings with different limitations, the influence of these limitations can be analysed. Therefore, data were collected on changes made by patients as well as orthopaedic technicians to lower limb prostheses in two orthopaedic centres in Malawi. First, observations were conducted of the production process for prostheses, followed by semi-structured interviews with orthopaedic technicians and patients, and with additional experts to understand the broader context.

It was found that patients and orthopaedic technicians did make many changes. Three kinds of limitations were identified, that influence these changes by users. Like users in developed countries, patients and orthopaedic technicians make these changes to fulfil their needs because available products and services are not satisfactory. Limitations both restrict what products and services are available to users, and also influence the characteristics of the creation and sharing of changes by users. Many users reported on efforts to share their changes with others despite the limitations, often due to a sense of professional collegiality and solidarity.

In summary, limitations help to explain how changes by users occur in developing countries, but also how any accumulation of such changes users make is restricted. Improving this situation could help less developed countries in making better use of any user innovations that do occur, and thus contribute to their development more generally.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Business, Management and Economics > SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit
Subjects: R Medicine > RD Surgery > RD0130 Prosthesis. Artificial organs
R Medicine > RD Surgery > RD0701 Orthopedia. Orthopedic Surgery > RD0755 Orthopedic instruments, apparatus, and appliances > RD0756 Artificial limbs
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2015 15:56
Last Modified: 29 Sep 2015 14:07
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/54506

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