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What Can Hackers Tell Us About Health Care Disruption in 2015?

by Mandira Singh, Senior Manager, Business Development and More Disruption Please

Last month, athenahealth hosted a group of more than 80 engineers, entrepreneurs, physicians, designers, developers and scientists from the greater Boston area to the 3rd annual More Disruption Please (MDP) Hackathon. The goal: gather like-minded individuals to help solve health care’s biggest problems.

So, how did these forward thinkers do? Not only did they make huge strides toward the intended goal, but their innovative ideas give us an important look at where health care is headed in 2015. (Note: Not familiar with hackathons? Read all about them in this report from Andrea Ippolito, PhD student in the Engineering Systems Division at MIT and co-leader of MIT’s Hacking Medicine group.)

Across the nine teams that were formed at the MDP Hackathon, all the participants’ efforts seemed to revolve around three common themes:

  1. Patient-Provider Communication — Several teams built tools to create more efficient communication channels between patients and providers, making it easier to share diagnosis information, treatment plans and other necessary care follow-up. The solutions that were built included a tool that helped identify patient-provider communication breakdown and allowed the provider to see areas where their communication could be improved.
  2. Access to Care — This was a big focus at this year’s event, using technology to improve patients’ access to care. Projects ranged from utilizing drones to deliver vaccines to remote areas to creating a tool that would eliminate the need for deaf patients to require interpreters when visiting their doctor.
  3. Medications — Improving medication prescription workflows was a top priority for some hackathon participants, who pitched solutions to streamline prior prescription authorizations or build a centralized medication directory that displays all the medications a patient is taking for provider and patient to reconcile.

For the first time at the annual MDP Hackathon, participants had instant access to athenahealth’s APIs — specifically, more than 130 API endpoints and a sandbox environment for testing. For those not familiar with how hacking works, this is a huge benefit for developers because it introduces a real-world environment into their speed-of-light brainstorming and production work. Having an open portal with great API documentation, workflow information, and connectivity tools ready to use is rare so we are really excited to be able to offer this to the community. The result of this opportunity had some real impact, with several teams integrating their solutions into our cloud-based network (athenaNet) over the weekend, and demo-ing the integration live on Sunday afternoon. We believe this is how health care technology can — and should — work, where the greatest, most innovative minds can bring their services to a testing environment (and, potentially, a client base) effectively and rapidly.

At the end of the two-day event, MDP Hackathon judges awarded first, second and third place prizes to the teams they felt produced solutions that best addressed acute needs in the health care space. Seeing these winning ideas is where things get really exciting, and brings out the real health IT nerd in me! I’m sure you’ll find these winners, well, disruptive — and just what health care needs.

1st place: MEDI A medication reconciliation solution that takes verification work away from the provider, connecting with athenaNet to bi-directionally exchange medication data.

2nd place: The Cuff Guys The blueprint for a new medical device that repurposes components of ultrasound technology into a cuff that can be worn around the leg to speed the detection of deep-vein thrombosis.

3rd place: airCare A solution geared toward solving medical supply chain defects. airCare would utilize drones to deliver medical equipment and vaccines to rural areas that don’t normally have access to simple, life-saving materials.

Across the ideas that emerged from our hackathon participants, we saw individuals looking at health care processes from unique points of view, applying different lenses to see where there was room to disrupt and thinking well outside of the box for solutions. This is the creativity we want to keep seeing in 2015 as more innovators question the status quo! With more developers, entrepreneurs and disruptors building onto our platform, we cannot wait to see what our MDP community comes up with next!

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