H@cking Medicine’s Healthcare Grand Hackfest

Last weekend (3/17-3/19) I attended H@cking Medicine’s Healthcare Grand Hackfest; it was held at the MIT Media Lab in Boston, MA.  The purpose of the hackathon was to bring together a diverse group of professionals including: designers, entrepreneurs, healthcare experts and engineers to propose creative solutions to some of healthcare’s toughest problems.  Each participant chose one of five tracks to pitch an idea for; the tracks one could choose from were diabetes, hospital IT, global health technology, telehealth and mobile, and global genes and rare diseases. The conference kicked off Friday night with one keynote speaker from each track.  The two goals of the conference were to “launch disruptive healthcare businesses” and get “infected with the hacking medicine bug”.

The first keynote speaker, Lee H. Schwamm, the Vice Chairman of the Department of Neurology at Mass General Hospital represented the telehealth and mobile track.  He said that while healthcare was the second most searched topic on the internet, it is lagging behind almost all sectors in terms of technology. The goal of telehealth is connect patients to providers in virtually any setting.  Telehealth has become more popular in the recent years due to the increasing public acceptance with conversing on video.  However, at this time providers can only receive compensation for seeing patients in person.

The second keynote speaker, John Halamka (Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Chief Information Officer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Chairman of the New England Healthcare Exchange Network (NEHEN) represented the hospital IT track.  He suggested that EHR’s are not currently user friendly as many of the user-interfaces are out of date, patient/family engagement tools are poor and providers are overwhelmed with data.  He said that the EHR does not tell providers/patients what they need to know today, specifically EHR’s need to incorporate real time feedback and include alerts and reminders. He spoke about the need for a tool for providers to search through the 140,000 new ICD-10 codes to find the correct procedure code.  He then communicated the severity of the 1.5 million dollar fine for HIPAA violations and that there needs to be a tool in the cloud that captures meaningful consent from patients.

The third keynote speaker John Brooks, CEO of the Joslin Diabetes Center, represented the diabetes track. He said that 382 million people have type 2 diabetes and 46% of that population is undiagnosed.  People are more worried about contracting swine flu than diabetes, but diabetes is much more prevalent.   There needs to be advances in technology that will enable providers and patients to better track medication, and behavior changes associated with diabetes.

The fourth keynote speakers were from Global Genes, a leading rare disease patient advocacy organization and represented the rare diseases track.  There are currently 7,000 rare diseases which affect 10% of the population.  The average time to reach a diagnosis for a rare disease is 7-8 years; Recogynz is a new app that looks at 65 points on a patients face to help determine a diagnosis.The app needs technology created to extract those points on the face from a 2D picture.  The face is an important part of fetal development, facial indicators are correlated to certain diseases.  For example, patients with Down Syndrome have upward slanting eyes.

The fifth keynote speaker, Dr. Paul Salins, Medical Director and Vice-president of the Mazumdar Shaw Cancer Center and Narayana Hrudayalaya Multispecialty Hospital, represented the global health technology track.  The biggest problem he sees in global health is the inability to follow up with patients.  An example of this is oral cancer which affects more than 30% of the population in India.  A small patch of cancer can take many years to grow, however it is difficult for the provider to keep track of the growth because they cannot keep track of the patients.  Technology is needed to allow for remote testing and reporting of oral cancer and other similar ailments.

Saturday the Hackfest began, all participants split up into the five separate tracks and 40 different groups to prepare to present to a panel of judges Sunday evening; there was one winner from each of the five tracks. The weekend was an exciting and educational event that brought together a diverse group of professionals pursuing a common goal to innovate and further develop the field of Healthcare IT.

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