by Peter B. Nichol

Hacking the future of health at Yale

Jan 26, 2017
Consumer ElectronicsElectronic Health RecordsHealth and Fitness Software

The 2017 Yale Healthcare Hackathon had over 200 innovators accept the challenge to redesign health, believing that ideas change lives.

illustration of a hackathon
Credit: Thinkstock

Do you believe? The Yale Healthcare Hackathon event (#YaleHackHealth) blended passion, creativity and the belief that each one of us can improve the patient experience with new ideas. One believer is Philips Healthcare. The flagship sponsor of the event, Philips shared a passion for patient and provider empowerment throughout the weekend.

The event was presented by the Yale Center for Biomedical Innovation and Technology (CBIT) and the Yale School of Medicine Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging. The 2017 Yale Healthcare Hackathon was co-organized by Dr. Ayesha Khalid (Yale CBIT Clinical Director) and Dr. Jeffrey Weinreb (Yale School of Medicine, Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging). Together, they produced a fantastic event supported by mentors, the Yale radiology team, and the leadership and planning team.

Collaboration and trust are the bedrock of any action that produces value. No one creates value alone, and everything of value requires trust. It took a small village to successfully pull off this event. The leadership and planning team included Tushar Agarwal, Kirthi Bellamkonda, Michael Boyle, Chris Breen, Dr. Julius Chapiro, Zobia Chunara, Elena Clancy,Michelle Guo,Justin Hall, Nancy Hung, Ankur Kapadia, Jessica Lee, Michelle Lim, Ming Lim, Natalie Lomayesva, Liam Loscalzo, Allen Lu, Sri Muthu, Michelle St. Peter, Melanie Reschke, Alex Rich, Ben Rosenbluth, Natalia Salinas, Alyssa Siefert, Anamika Veeramani, Amanda Way, Justin Yu, and Jean Zheng. This fantastic team was supported by 15 members of the Radiology Team (providing radiological expertise), 59 mentors (offering coaching for teams during the hackathon) and leadership support from MIT Hacking Medicine.

Have you ever been to a hackathon? Wondering what the heck a hackathon is all about? Allow me to share my experience participating in the event. Hack. Health. A healthcare hackathon is an event in which people with diverse perspectives such as clinicians, engineers, designers, software developers, businesspeople, problem-solvers and patients will come together in one intense, fun-filled three-day weekend to develop solutions that could address challenges facing healthcare today. In short, they are innovators, pioneers, scientists and entrepreneurs who believe ideas can change healthcare.

Teams organically formed during the weekend and collaborate to focus on a particular healthcare pain point and generate innovative, disruptive ideas with practical working solutions.

Numerous challenges and opportunities for the healthcare experience were defined:

  • Medication errors.
  • Inconsistent portability of medical images.
  • Challenges with discharge care transitions.
  • Empathy toward older adults.
  • Ethical decisions to empower end-of-life care.
  • Improving augmentative and alternative communications (ACC) devices for patients suffering from speed impairments.
  • Ultrasound economics.
  • Unfriendly radiology reports to patients.
  • Pain management approaches for addiction and behavioral disorders.
  • Patient improve care through virtual reality pre-experiences.
  • Automated 3D volumetry of brain lesions from MRI images.
  • Cognitive science additions for improving radiologist workstations.

The 2017 Yale Healthcare Hackathon was held Jan. 20 to 22 at the Yale School of Medicine. There were over 400 applicants interested in participating the event. The planning team had the difficult job of selecting only 200 innovators to participate in the hackathon. 

To achieve the goal of deconstructing and reconstructing the patient and provider experience we first must understand why this event matters. Provider engagement leads to high-quality care and better patient experiences. Patient activation leads to better health outcomes and to realize these improved outcomes both patients and providers need to work together. The best ideas are therefore are generated by a diverse team with a 360-degree perspective of the patient and provider experience.

There were dozens of colleges universities represented, including MIT, Yale, Harvard, Quinnipiac, Johns Hopkins, the University of Connecticut, Rutgers, Brown, the University of British Columbia, McGill, the University of Massachusetts, Cooper Union, Penn State, Vassar, Wesleyan and Stanford, among many others. 

The theme of the event was “Re-engineering Patient Experience and Provider Engagement,” and it was broken into two tracks:

  1. The Future of Medical Imaging
  2. Process Design 

The Yale Hackathon Guidebook was a useful reference for the three-day event. The hackathon opened on Friday at 6 p.m. with a keynote and networking reception held at Pacifico in New Haven, sponsored by Health Venture. Saturday kicked off with registration breakfast at 9 a.m., and by 10 a.m. participants were presenting their ideas (pitches) to the auditorium of participants to build teams (team registration list). Teams were mostly formed by 3 p.m., and hacking went well into the evening. It was amazing to experience how easily collaboration occurs when participants are passionate about improving healthcare. The 8 a.m. start on Sunday, arrived quickly for those like myself who had worked until 2 a.m. By the close of Saturday there were over 50 idea pitches

By Sunday team were racing to meet the 12 noon post deadline. In preparation for a three-minute pitch (final presentations) teams had to post any content (presentations, videos, and PDFs) they wanted considered for the judging posted online by Sunday at noon. By Sunday 35 teams had submitted the their pitch presentation by the deadline.

There were many great ideas generated during the three-day event. RadBit empowered patients with portable medical images (radiological studies) leveraging blockchain technology. Kindr matched older adults in nursing homes with college students to share interests. Qualy used wearable technology to assist children with respiratory conditions. PAT, applied gamification for the pediatric want to improve treatment and outcomes creating a pediatric assistive toy. TrialMatcher enabled seamless matching of patients to clinical oncology trials connecting patients qualified trials. Roden, integrated 3D imaging and virtual reality to remotely position intravascular catheters. NarcoTrak created a smart narcotic dispenser that logged usage data to notify patients, providers, and families of unsafe patterns. VegeTable concentrated on regions with high obesity to improve healthy food access by connecting food providers to low-income families through donation and education. Rx4All, presented a recycling medication program, that redistributed provider drugs near expiration instead of allowing these expensive drugs to go to waste.

Many of the innovators generated useful, viable ideas. DeepEye envisioned a biomimetic approach to the computer-aided diagnosis of lung cancer. ptXtension redesigned the physical therapy process with a wearable device that identified motion, counted repetitions and captured geometric data for motion analysis presented in a smartphone application. ErgoSonic redesigned ultrasound probe and monitor placement for sonographers to decrease occupational injury. SurgEd reduced anxiety and increased confidence with a patient friendly engagement kit (medical instructions presented as comics) for surgery.

As fast as the hackathon started, it was over. Hacking health at Yale was an energizing experience! The sponsors, teams and innovators all united to discover new ways to improve healthcare, holding the belief that we each have the power to change lives with ideas. What if we were all believers? Collaborating together we can create innovative solutions to transform patient care.

The Yale Healthcare Hackathon was a catalyst for achieving better health through innovation – one innovation at a time.