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On the Frontlines of Healthcare Innovation

Posted by | 9:51am on Friday, March 28, 2014 | No Comments

Everyone converges on a central theme, but we all bring our unique perspective 

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to participate in an event aiming to innovate and disrupt some of healthcare’s most intractable problems—the Healthcare Grand H@ckfest. A hackathon hosted by MIT H@cking Medicine and sponsored by big names—such as Kauffman Foundation, Joslin Diabetes Center, Global Genes, and the Massachusetts General Hospital. The event brought together over 400 people to meet, form ideas, and build prototypes—all within 48 hours. Participants traveled anywhere from 1 mile to halfway around the globe, bringing their experience as designers, developers, entrepreneurs, HCPs, researchers, and more to address the issues affecting healthcare today.

And They’re Off
Outside the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, a placid, partially frozen Charles River lay before a sedate Boston skyline; a peaceful Saturday morning, in contrast to the energized excitement building in the room. Though we had all brought different perspectives and ideas, we all shared the common desire to improve the state of healthcare. After keynotes and a networking mixer Friday evening, Saturday morning was a feverish rush of meetings and brainstorming. The floor was open for anyone to express a problem or pain point, and it was up to everyone else to try to come up with a solution. Teams formed organically as individuals bounced from group to group, refining potential solutions until each team had solidified around 1 idea by early afternoon. We now had 24 hours to show that our solution could work.

Healthcare Challenges That Hackathons Can Address
The pitches were separated into 5 tracks, focusing on diabetes, rare disease, telehealth, global health, and hospital IT. Despite each track presenting separately and earning separate prizes, I was able to watch some of the pitches and final presentations for both the Hospital IT and Global Health tracks (I was in the rare disease track). Echoing the collaborative essence of the event, it seemed to me that a lot of the problems or solutions from 1 track could equally apply to 1 or more of the other tracks; particularly when it came to improving the quality of doctor-patient interactions or managing care. Read More

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