When you hear “Hackathons”, you may instantly imagine a room full of middle aged programmers, tediously working through problematic computer code. And in most contexts, you’d be correct! However, the healthcare is beginning to see the pros (and cons) to utilising hackathons to their full potential. Hackathons, by basic definition, is an “innovation marathon.” This marathon is a collection of people, from different sectors and industries, working together to solve a central problem. Alongside their peers, engineers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, and more craft parts to a centralised solution for the main issue. The main benefit of hackathons is uniting of different minds and skillets, collaborating to create the absolute best option.
How the Healthcare Will Benefit from Hackathons
In the United States, hackathons have become a common trend across ivy league universities and renowned medical research institutions alike. At healthcare hackathons, students, developers, and healthcare professionals are presented with a common problem and are requested to create a solution. Typically, there are strict time constraints that, if met with success, are greeted with cash prizes, university accreditation, or formal recognition (basically, bragging rights). Once a hackathon has completed and the problem solved, the winners are given the opportunity to capitalise on their ideas and spread it throughout the healthcare industry. Newly marked successes include ‘Smart Scheduling’, an algorithm which predicts which patients will be late to their doctor’s appointments and which will not, and ‘PillPack’, a monthly subscription service that delivers a patient’s daily pills in a neatly packed container with times marked when they should be taken.
While these innovations may not be leading towards the cure for cancer or how to eradicate viruses, they resolve more compound issues closer to home. Doctors and physicians are notoriously slow for accepting innovations and advanced in technology. To this day, you will still find more doctors than not walking around their practices with a pager attached to their hip. Likewise, when consulting a new physician, there are still countless forms to fill out, on paper. Yet, these archaic methods of administrative work are the exact things that are preventing the healthcare industry from aspiring to new levels.
What are the Next Steps for Healthcare and Hackathons?
A revolution within the healthcare industry is unavoidable. With the amount of connections patients now have with their physicians, it would be counterproductive not to accept these newfound technologies. For example, if a doctor’s practice has the ability to develop a mobile application that schedules patients’ appointments, send out test results, and answers frequently diagnosed symptoms, why not explore its possibilities? This is the direction hackathons are pushing the healthcare industry towards- innovation and connection. By combining real world situations, the healthcare field faces with the profound skillset found amongst a diverse group of peers, administrative and research solutions are being discovered and implemented.
Likewise, the next medical breakthrough will need more than the imagination of young entrepreneurs. For most ideas, such as ‘Smart Scheduling’ for example, data-based proof of its effectiveness is needed for doctors to embrace this change. This is where hackathons pose the greatest contributions to the healthcare industry. By combining the brainpower and exploration of entrepreneurs, engineers and, designers with the experience and expertise of medical professionals, the breakthrough to our most common healthcare issues is just around the corner!