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Ready, Set… Hack!

October 8, 2015
by Pamela Tabar
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More than 175 idea-makers and industry mentors commandeered the fourth floor of Cleveland’s Global Center for Health Innovation Sept. 26-27 for a weekend of extreme hacking—with the goal of presenting worthy ideas for using technology to improve healthcare data collection.

The hackathon included participants from across the United States and Canada, and ranged from university students to physicians, and from health IT industry gurus to tech company sponsors. Plenty of industry mentors were on hand to serve as resources, available at stations representing the clinical, technology, community health and legal aspects. The three health systems and primary medical school covering the Northeastern Ohio region—Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, MetroHealth Systems, and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine—all joined the effort as participants, judges and/or industry mentors.

"There’s no better place for a medical hackathon to occur than Cleveland, with its medical wealth and expertise, technology knowledge and entrepreneurs,” Cleveland Clinic Chief of Staff Brian Donley, M.D., told attendees. “We can’t wait to see what you can come up with. Thank you for your passions and innovation to improve the lives of patients and healthcare caregivers."

Everyone met the first morning to swap ideas, eventually forming teams with like-minded goals. By that afternoon, the participants had formed 21 different project teams—far more than hackathon organizers had thought possible for the event’s first endeavor, noted James Krouse, director of marketing and communications for Nesco Resource, the event’s host.  

The pervasiveness of cellular phones, wireless connectivity outside the enterprise and cloud-based computing formed the foundation of most of the projects, allowing the teams’ ideas to harvest a “holy trinity” technology platform that wasn’t readily available even a few years ago, many hackathon participants agreed.

At 2pm, mere hours after the participants had met, the real work began. The team participants pulled an all-nighter inside the innovation center working on their ideas, talking with medical and IT mentors, polishing their previous research and developing prototypes that could solve real healthcare data exchange problems.

By the next morning, the bleary-eyed but confident team members (with cups of caffeine readily in hand) reconvened in the general meeting space to present their projects. The 12-member judging panel of medical professionals, IT experts and local health tech gurus took careful notes on each presentation, and awarded the three prizes:

First Place project ($3,000)—IQ-Sensor Solutions:

This project used sensors embedded in flexible plastic to create a wearable arm band to measure blood pressure, which could send data to the cloud. The application eliminated the need for a traditional blood pressure cuff, and allowed physicians to collect data anywhere and at any time interval. The team included members from Cleveland Clinic, Rockwell Automation, LeanDog and students from the University of Akron and Cornell University.

| See the project here |

Second Place project ($1,000)—NEO+Natal:

Team members chose to combat high infant mortality rates by creating an app that tracked high-risk pregnant mothers and their access level to neonatal services. The app developed specific risk profiles based on geographic location mapping and included specific messaging actions for mothers who live in neighborhoods that are high-risk areas for infant mortality. The team included members from Dragon ID, Cleveland State University, the University of Michigan and the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

| See the project here |

Third Place project ($500)—Watershed Health:

Participants developed a mobile electronic inspection form to collect data on water quality and monitor the spread of waterborne diseases or health hazards. The application showed the possibility of reducing water-borne emergency response time from 30 days to one day, based on its detailed mapping algorithms. The team included members from the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Board of Health, an IT designer from Vitamix, a computer analyst from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and a graduate student from Kent State University.

|See the project here |

The quality and professional level of the teamwork and presentations stunned the judges and organizers alike. “Usually there’s an attrition rate in competitions like this. But all teams finished and they all exceeded the expectations of everyone, including the organizers and judges,” William Morris, M.D., associate chief information officer at Cleveland Clinic, told Healthcare Informatics. “Most of these participants were complete strangers, and a lot of them are not healthcare professionals. It was powerful to see them unite under a common purpose.”

Industry technology trends

The overall field of the Cleveland Medical Hackathon’s projects showed some clear technology trends in tackling healthcare’s issues of data gathering and information exchange:


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